Different types of Membership at United Nations

UN officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, after ratification of the United Nations Charter by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the Republic of China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and a majority of the other signatories. Originally there were 51 members at the time of launch of UNO. India was an original member and its territory included of territories of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh under the British colonial rule.


  • Only sovereign states can become UN members, and currently all UN members are sovereign states.
  • A state can only be admitted to the UN by the approval of the Security Council and the General Assembly.
  • The full membership requires nine votes from the 15-member Security Council and a simple majority in the General Assembly.
  • Full membership includes the right to sponsor and vote on General Assembly resolutions and the right to field candidates for key UN posts.
  • Currently there are 193 United Nations (UN) member states, and each of them is a member of the United Nations General Assembly. South Sudan was admitted as 193rd member in July 2011.

Non-Member Permanent Observer State

  • In addition to the member states, there is one non-member permanent observer state: the Holy See (which holds sovereignty over the state of Vatican City) and gained all the rights of full membership except voting on 1 July 2004.
  • Other than Vatican City there are 5 more non members: Palestine, Kosovo, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara), Turkish Cyprus, Taiwan.

Membership of Palestine
Till now the only non-member state with observer status at the United Nations was the Vatican City. Now Palestine has been given the Observer state status. Its powers are not much different from what it previously had as an observer entity, although it has greater facilities in participating in the work of the General Assembly. This status would also allow the state to become a full member of UN agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO etc. but still it would not have the right to vote. The status of Observer state requires a simple majority in the General Assembly. Non-member observer states are arranged for seating in the General Assembly Hall immediately after the Member States and before the other observers. Now Palestine will be chaired after the Holy See (Vatican City) and before other observers.

Observer Status

  • In addition to its 193 member states, the United Nations welcomes many international organizations, entities, and non-member states as observers.
  • Observer status is granted by a United Nations General Assembly resolution.
  • Observer entities have the right to speak at United Nations General Assembly meetings and to sponsor and sign resolutions, but not to vote on resolutions and other substantive matters. Yet, they can vote on some procedural matters.
  • Various other rights such as to speak in debates, to submit proposals and amendments, the right of reply, to raise points of order and to circulate documents, etc are given selectively to some observers only. EU has been granted such rights.

Observer Entity

  • The Palestinian Authority was previously classified as an observer entity.
  • In a 1998 resolution, the General Assembly had outlined in eight points the rights of the Palestinian Authority. Mainly, it had the “right to participate in the general debate of the General Assembly,” including on topics other than Middle East issues. It also had the right to “co-sponsor draft resolutions and decisions on Palestinian and Middle East issues” which can then be put to a vote. However, the Palestine authority was not having voting rights.