WikiProject United Nations political boundaries

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This page describes a historic artifact in the history of OpenStreetMap. It does not reflect the current situation, but instead documents the historical concepts, issues, or ideas.
The OSM community is interested to know where OSM differs from the UN recognized countries and territories. We would like to see these designations in the database. For many places, what is currently a difference between OSM and the UN may simply be a mistake, and in those cases, we simply need to update the default tags. But that is not always the case.
Reason for being historic
The OpenStreetMap Foundation published an official policy in September 2013. It obsoleted the thoughts how to tag certain territories.
Captured time
11 June 2012 (latest version before publication of the policy)

National governments and international organizations are willing to use OSM to publish interactive maps. However, they could face huge diplomatic problems if those maps don't follow the internationally recognised rules established by United Nations for countries in the world. The complete list of country members is published at . Some maps are also available at .

The OSM community is definitely interested to know where OSM differs from the UN recognized countries and territories. We'd like to see these designations in the database. For many places, what is currently a difference between OSM and the UN may simply be a mistake, and in those cases, we simply need to update the default tags. But that's not always the case.

What might be controversial is the "default" name and designation, shown on the default map rendering of the OpenStreetMap site, and other renderings like CloudMade. For instance, Kosovo is recognized internationally by many countries, and of course in Kosovo, but not all. If the mappers in Kosovo want the default map rendering to show Kosovo as a country, I don't think the community would weigh against that. Of course, it could be changed at any time in either way. OSM is a wiki.

In a very few cases, the OSM Foundation is called in to mediate disputes, such as in Cyprus and we employ the Disputes#On the Ground Rule On the Ground rule in those cases. How the rule applies to political designations is still subject to debate.


OpenStreetMap can still include information on official recognition, and alternate renderings can be configured to show those renderings

New tags are needed for non-self-governing territories and for something like Other territories.

Tags like name=*, is_in=*, boundary=* all would have localizations. The local key for internationally recognized political entities could possibly be "UN", such as ref:UN=*, but the United Nations also maintain a statistic reference number in its M.49 standard (referenced also by the IETF BCP 47 standard track for tagging languages), not just for member countries but for various entities; the only way would be to use a more specific tag like UN:member=yes).

Known inconsistencies

  • Faeroes islands are not a country but a territory administrated by Denmark.
  • Alderney and Guernsey are not countries but Crown Dependencies of UK
    False. Crown Dependencies are NOT formally part of UK (just like most British overseas territories, even if these later are under British sovereignty), and are also NOT under British Sovereignty. The British Crown Dependencies are in fast personnal possession of the Britsh Crown, and operate their own States; just like other independant states under free association with another country. The UK legislation is not immediately applicable to these dependencies, without a prior consent of the relevant States. They are helf-independant, and have freely chosen (by decision of their States), to be represented internationally by UK. Citizens of these Dependences do get the right of using the British citizenship, but the reverse is NOT true (there's only a freedom of movement for all Briths citizens, but there are specific customs applicable to these States; some local elections are only applicable to citizens of these states, not necessarily to all British citizens residing there). These states are also not part of the European Union. These dependencies of the Crown have a very large level of autonomy. The government of UK cannot decide alone without approval by the relevant states, including for laws related to international affairs and international treaties.
    The only thing that is true is that these dependencies (including Isle of Man, and Jersey, the two other Crown Dependencies) have no seat in the UN, because they are not internationally recognized as independant countries (they are associated states), but it is extremely near from full independance (if these States decide to withdraw the association, they have the right to do it; they will remain in the British Crown with the Queen/King as their head of State, just like Canada); and these states have the legal right to create embassies, or consulates in selected countries, without prior authorization by the British government or the British Parliament; they can also become parties to international treaties of their choice, independantly of UK even if the British parliament or government is opposed to it (unlike its overseas), provided that this is compatible with the terms of the current association (notably in terms of defense and police, but the British army cannot take any action there without consulting the local States).
    Notes: Alderney and Sark are direct dependancies (administrative subdivisions) of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The two Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey were formerly associated in the "Channel Islands" but this association is now fully dissolved as they operate now as separate states (the "Channel Islands" should no longer be used on today's map). Also do not confuse these "Channel Islands" (this former administrative entity) with the "British Isles" (an existing much larger geographical-only entity, covering the full island of Great Britain, the full island of Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Alderney and their smaller dependancies).
  • Gibraltar is not a country but a territory administrated by the United Kingdom.
  • Montenegro is a country but it is missing on the map.
  • Kosovo is not a country but a territory in dispute.
  • Macedonia should be called The Former Republic Yugoslav of Macedonia or at least Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.).
  • Western Sahara is not an independent country; it has been suggested that the borders should be rendered differently (dashed).

Area vs. boundary

Right now, OSM tags administrative boundaries, but not the country areas. In order to properly tag the contested territories, a possible solution is a relation of boundaries making up a closed multipolygon should be created for every territory.

Such areas should overlap in contested territories, and no-man's-land should not overlap with any of such areas.

Such areas should be tagged as recognised (or not) by UN, self-governing, etc. Later on, a geoprocess could automatically extract "problematic" areas (contested, no-man's-land, non-UN countries, etc).