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The maintenance agency includes representatives from the following 14 organizations: Following notification from the United Nations (UN), the ISO 3166 maintenance agency assigns alpha-2 and alpha-3 country code elements to new UN member states. As a general rule, the ISO 3166 maintenance agency does not assign official country code elements to other geopolitical areas or countries that are not member states of the UN.
However, the ISO 3166 maintenance agency may assign country codes to dependencies of countries that are member states of the UN.
To be considered, some criteria, amongst others, include that the area be physically separated from its parent country and outside its territorial waters.
Even if all criteria are met, the ISO 3166 maintenance agency may decide not to assign a code element, for example, due to the very limited number of official alpha-2 code elements available.
It allows you to download the most recent, official lists of country codes and/or subdivisions not to mention formerly used codes in one convenient location. However, it does not define the names of countries – this information comes from United Nations sources (Terminology Bulletin Country Names and the Country and Region Codes for Statistical Use maintained by the United Nations Statistics Divisions).Using codes saves time and avoids errors as instead of using a country's name (which will change depending on the language being used) we can use a combination of letters and/or numbers that are understood all over the world.How the alpha 4 codes are constructed depends on the reason why the country name has been removed.Read more about the different types of codes in the Glossary for ISO 3166.