The Two UN 'Observer States'

January 6th, 2019

The UN Headquarters
United Nations Headquarters in New York City

In 1945, the end of World War II saw the creation of The United Nations, an organization whose mission is to maintain global peace, enforce international law, provide aid to the needy, protect human rights, and foster sustainable development.

When it was founded, the UN consisted of 51 member states, but today, membership has increased to 193. It's the most powerful and widely recognized intergovernmental organization in the world.

The UN acknowledges 195 sovereign states, countries with clearly defined borders and independent governments. Two of the 195 countries are not members of the UN: Vatican City and Palestine. The UN has granted these two countries a special status as observer states.

Vatican City

Vatican City, which is also known as The Holy See, is an independent country located within Rome, Italy. It is ruled by the pope, who is leader of the Catholic Church. Vatican City is home to significant religious and cultural sites like St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, and it hosts many of the world's most famous paintings and sculptures.

Vatican City has never applied for UN membership, but the UN granted the country permanent status as an observer state in 1964. That status allows Vatican City to attend all sessions of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, and the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

To fulfill its role, Vatican City has instituted a Permanent Observer Mission at UN Headquarters in New York and has participated in all open meetings of the General Assembly.

With regard to diplomatic consideration, the UN has allowed Vatican City to make formal policy statements in the General Assembly, with several popes being invited to address the General Assembly.


Palestine is a country in Western Asia that borders Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Since 1967, the territory has been the site of much political dispute.

The problems go back to the end of World War II. In 1947, the UN recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states in the region. The State of Israel was established in 1948, and the same year, the All-Palestine Government was established by the Arab League. Decades of war ensued.

In 1988, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, announced the establishment of the State of Palestine. An independence county, the State of Palestine is recognized by 136 UN members and was granted status as an observer state in 2012.