Which Nation Will Be the Next UN Member State?

The United Nations Building in New York is the headquarters of the United Nations organization.

Colombia flagWhen it began operations in October 1945, the United Nations (UN) had 51 members. As the organization nears its 75th anniversary, its membership, which currently represents almost all the world's sovereign states, has grown to 193, plus two states with observer status.

The last country to join the UN was South Sudan, in 2011, but membership is by no means closed. As the geopolitical landscape continues its perpetual cycle of change, many people wonder which nation will become the next member of the UN.

The UN is an intergovernmental organization with the goal of maintaining international peace and security, establishing friendly relations among nations, and facilitating international cooperation. The globally recognized organization is headquartered on international territory in New York City.

How does a nation become a member of the UN? The organization carefully assesses any aspirant nation to ensure they are a peace-loving nation and will "accept the obligations contained in the United Nations Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able to carry out these obligations.”

Even a nation that meets the UN's criteria for membership can be denied, as veto-holders of the UN Security Council can block acceptance. Consider Taiwan and China. The Chinese government views Taiwan as part of China. The Republic of China is a founding member of the UN and one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. China doesn't want Taiwan admitted to the UN, and that's not likely to change.

The General Assembly Hall is the largest room in the United Nations with seating capacity for over 1,800 people.

As we'll see below, UN members' veto power and other geopolitical factors often complicate the efforts of fledging nations and separatist movements that seek independence. Let's look at four states that would like to be part of the UN—some have a better chance than others to become the 194th member.


In Southeastern Europe lies Kosovo, a partially recognized state with a population of almost 2 million. It shares its northern border with Serbia, from which it declared its independence in 2008. Since then, Kosovo has sought diplomatic recognition as a sovereign state. It's a developing country, achieving consistent economic growth over the last decade and becoming a member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Kosovo has official recognition from more than 100 UN member states, but the nation's bid for UN membership hinges on reaching a peace agreement with Serbia. Russia has indicated that it will use its veto power to deny Kosovo UN membership as long as Serbia does not recognize Kosovo.

There is an ongoing EU-facilitated dialog between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo, and if the two nations come to terms, that is likely to result in Kosovo becoming a UN member.

Western Sahara

The UN identifies Western Sahara as a non-decolonized territory, giving it official status as a Non-Self-Governing Territory. In a dispute that's been going on for over 30 years, the Kingdom of Morocco and a separatist group called the Polisario Front can't reach an agreement. The issue is whether the Sahrawis, the indigenous people of Western Sahara, have the right to choose between independence and integrating with Morocco. Since 1988, the UN has been involved, trying to facilitate a solution through self-determination.

The issue of decolonization of Western Sahara continues in gridlock. Amidst recent policy changes, it's reported that the US has been encouraging Morocco to recognize Israel in exchange for the US government's recognition of Morocco’s control over Western Sahara. Such political gamesmanship is likely to hamper what has been a long-stalled effort to solve the conflict.


The UN recognizes Scotland as a country that's part of the UK. The organization has a mandate to deal with Scotland only through the UK’s government, but that may change if Scotland were to vote to leave the UK, and there are signs of that happening in the future.

In 2014, 45% of Scottish voters opted for independence. When the UK left the European Union, the Scottish National Party complained that Scotland was removed from the EU against its will, citing that, in 2016, most Scottish people voted to remain in the EU.

If Scotland ever votes for independence in a referendum that was organized by the UK authorities, it's believed that the UK would honor the nation's desire for independence and not raise objections to Scotland's official inclusion in the UN.


The Middle East peace process has historically been a difficult one, and the denial of UN membership for Palestine is a byproduct. The country is perpetually considered for UN membership and currently is one of only two states with official UN observer state status, the other being the Holy See.

A lack of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians is one barrier to Palestine becoming a UN member. Another barrier is a lack of support from neighboring countries. While some Persian Gulf nations are moving to normalize ties with Israel, the Saudis are holding firm to the Palestinian two-state solution, as outlined in UN Security Council resolutions.

UN membership is a hot issue for geography buffs. At Seterra, we're keeping tabs on UN hopefuls like the four discussed above. The moment a state's UN status changes, we're ready to update our popular UN Member States quiz and other affected quizzes and games.