ISO 3166

Law, Gwil Jr. Gwil_Law at
Tue Feb 22 15:51:10 UTC 2000

Joseph S. Myers wrote:

> ... Now I might wonder whether the ISO 3166 criteria for
> dependent territories are documented somewhere?

There are some documents.  The best place to find them is at the home page
of the ISO 3166 maintenance agency,
<>.  The link called
"How to get a country name into ISO 3166-1" is informative.

The standard itself says, "The list appearing in this International Standard
... is based on the list included in the 'United Nations Standard Country or
Area Code for Statistical Use' established by the Statistical Office of the
United Nations....  Some additional entities are included in this
International Standard with a view to providing more complete global

The "additional entities" at this time are Antarctica and nine islands or
island groups, mostly in the Indian Ocean.  Conversely, Channel Islands and
Isle of Man are on the Statistical Office list but not ISO 3166.  You can
find the Statistical Office list at
<>, along with a disclaimer
as to the legal standing of the countries.

A few years ago, a new code was assigned:  FX for Metropolitan France.  The
standard cautiously refrains from defining the scope of each code, with a
few exceptions, but the apparent intention was that FX would be just
European France, including Corsica, whereas FR would theoretically cover the
departements and territoires d'outre-mer.  The FX code was later withdrawn.
Despite appearances, this doesn't change the meaning of FR:  the standard
has always allowed you to use either MQ or FR for Martinique (a departement
d'outre-mer), according to your information interchange requirements.

When Hong Kong became a special administrative region of China in 1997, its
code and name were allowed to remain unchanged in ISO 3166.  The ISO 3166/MA
Annual Report for 1998 gives three reasons:  "1.  China [has] neither
requested Hong Kong's removal from the standard nor a change of its present
name form.  2.  ...the [existing] code elements ... are very widely used.
3.  According to the UN Statistics Division the new name is to be used in
statistical publications.  ISO 3166-1 is not a statistical publication."

I've heard that the ISO 3166/MA receives numerous requests for new code
assignments that may have no geographic meaning, but are wanted as new
top-level domains.  The agency turns them down.

Antoine Leca wrote:

> BTW, does someone know if ISO 3166 text is or will be available
> online or for a modest/reasonnable fee?

I've always heard that ISO is very protective of its copyrights, claiming
that the only way it can support its activities is to charge high prices for
its exclusive documents.

Yours,    Gwillim Law

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