According to the UN General Assembly Rules of Procedure, any state which desires to become a member of the UN can submit an application to the UN Secretary-General. The state's application will declare that it accepts the obligations in the UN Charter. The subsequent procedure is as follows.
- The UN Security Council must first agree to the application.
- After that, the General Assembly will consider whether the applicant is "a peace-loving state and is able and willing to carry out the obligations contained in the Charter".
- If a two-thirds majority of the UN General Assembly members agree to the application, it is considered approved.
- The Secretary-General will then inform the applicate state of the successful outcome.
- UN membership for the applicant state becomes effective on the date of the General Assembly's decision.
In principle, only sovereign states can become UN members. There are currently 193 UN members. The most recent ten members only joined the UN within the last 17 years, with the latest addition in July 2011.
10. Palau (joined on 15 December 1994)
Palau is a Pacific island state, with a population of about 20,000. Its surface area is about 459 square kilometers. With a GDP per capita of about US$9,000, Palau's key economic activities are fishing and tourism.
After World War Two, Palau became part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which was administered by the United States from 1947 to 1986. In 1978, Palau opted for independence and subequently became a republic in 1981. In 1982, Palau concluded a Compact of Free Association with the United States. It was only in October 1994 when Palau achieved full independence, after which it applied for UN membership.
9. Tonga (joined on 14 September 1999)
Palau is a Pacific island state, comprising of 176 islands of which only 52 are inhabited. With a population of about 104,000, its total land area is about 650 square kilometers. With a GDP per capita of about US$2,900, Palau's key economic activities are agricultural and cottage industries.
In May 1900, Tonga became part of the British Empire, forming part of the British Western Pacific Territories. Tonga became fully independent in July 1970, though it only became a UN member almost 30 years later.
8. Kiribati (joined on 14 September 1999)
Kiribati is a Pacific island state, with a population of over 100,000. Its land area of 719 square kilometres mainly consist of 32 atolls and 1 coral island. The islands straddle the equator and lie about halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Formerly known as the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati became independent from British colonial rule in July 1979.
Kiribati is one of the world's poorest countries, with few natural resources. Its GDP per capita is only US$1,600. Its main economic activities are fishing and tourism, making it heavily dependent on overseas workers' remittances.
7. Nauru (joined on 14 December 1999)
Nauru is an island country in the South Pacific. With an area of only 21 square kilometres, Nauru is the world's smallest republic. Its population is about 10,000.
In the late 19th century, Nauru was a German colony. After World War One, it became a League of Nations mandate administered by Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. After World War Two, it became a UN trustee. In 1968, Nauru became independent.
Nauru used to be rich in phosphate deposits. Until they ran out in the 1980s, Nauru enjoyed one of the highest per capita income in the world. However, after the phosphate deposits ran out, Nauru's wealth has since diminished to the point that it requires foreign aid. Its current GDP per capita is about US$2,400.
6. Tuvalu (joined on 5 September 2000)
Formerly known as the Ellice Islands, Tuvalu is a Pacific island state, comprising of four reef islands and five atolls. Covering 26 square kilometres, Tuvalu has about 10,400 people.
In 1892, Tuvalu (then Ellice Islands) became a British protectorate as part of the British Western Pacific Territories. In 1974, the islanders voted to separate themselves from the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) and rename the island as Tuvalu. In October 1978, Tuvalu became fully independent.
Tuvalu's key economic activities are fishing and subsistence agriculture. Due to its remote location, its tourism potential is limited. Its GDP per capita is US$3,200.
5. Serbia (joined on 1 November 2000)
Serbia is a landlocked country in the Balkans (Southeast Europe). Serbia has a population of 9.8 million and a land area of 88,631 square kilometers. Its GDP per capita is US$6,900. After World War One, Serbia merged with Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro to form Yugoslavia until its dissolution in 1992.
In 1992, the remaining Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro (then known as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) claimed to be legal successor to the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but this was denied by the UN General Assembly which required it to apply for UN membership again. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia refused to comply with this, until 2000 when President Slobodan Milosevic left office. Only then did it apply for UN membership, which was subsequently accepted.
4. Switzerland (joined on 10 September 2002)
Switzerland is a landlocked country in Western Europe, with a population of 7.5 million and a land area of 41,277 square kilometers. Switzerland is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of US$65,200. Despite its long history of neutrality and peace-making efforts, Switzerland did not join the UN until 2002. This was because the Swiss government and people considered the UN as incompatible with their neutrality. However, the Swiss have been actively involved with UN agencies and efforts, and has enjoyed observer status in the UN since 1948.
By the end of the 1960s, there was a growing voice within Swiss society towards joining the UN, though a government report in 1969 concluded that it was too soon for Switzerland to do so. It was not until 1977 that the Swiss government adopted membership as an aspiration. In 1981 the government first put the proposal to parliament for Switzerland to become a member of the UN, but the public was still not ready for it. But the people and the cantons were not ready to follow the government. In 1986, three-quarters of the Swiss voters voted to reject UN membership. Besides the traditional concern over their neutrality, there was also a fear that Swiss soldiers could get involved in military conflicts.
In 1998 the government presented another report, declaring UN membership as a "strategic goal". In the 2002 referendum on UN membership, the Swiss government strongly recommended the acceptance of the initiative, which the public finally did.
3. Timor Leste (27 September 2002)
Also known as East Timor, Timor Leste is a country in Southeast Asia. Its population is about 1.1 million and its land area is 14,874 square kilometers. Its GDP per capita is US$518.
In the 16th century, Timor Leste became a Portuguese colony. This lasted until 1975 when it declared independence. However, later that year, it was invaded by Indonesia and made the latter's 27th province. It was only in 1999, after a decades-long independence struggle, did Indonesia relinquish its control over Timor Leste, which subsequently declared independence in May 2002.
2. Montenegro (joined on 28 June 2006)
Montenegro was formerly part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (with Serbia). Based on the referendum results (55.5% approval) in May 2006, Montenegro declared independence and broke away from Yugoslavia in June 2006. Serbia did not object to the declaration. It has a population of 6.2 million and a land area of 13,812 square kilometers. Its GDP per capita is US$7,800.
1. South Sudan (joined on 14 July 2011)
South Sudan is the most recent UN member. A landlocked country in East Africa, South Sudan has a population of about 8 million and a land area of 619,745 square kilometers. With a GDP per capita is about US$1,500, its economy is mainly rural subsistence.
After decades of civil war, a referendum was held in January 2011 to determine if South Sudan should secede from Sudan, with 98.8% voting for independence. On 9 July 2011, South Sudan formally declared its independence.