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Overseas Territory

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Overseas Territory

A dependent territory, dependent area or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state yet remains politically outside of the controlling state's integral area.[1]

A dependency is commonly distinguished from other subnational entities in that they are not considered to be part of the integral territory of the governing State. A subnational entity typically represents a division of the State proper, while a dependent territory often maintains a great degree of autonomy from the controlling State. Historically, most colonies were considered to be dependencies of their controlling State. Most of these have either become independent, by joining neighbouring independent countries, or assimilated into the conquering state. The dependencies that remain generally maintain a very high degree of political autonomy. Although dependencies retain a degree of autonomy, not all autonomous entities are considered to be dependencies.[2]

File:Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories.djvu

Many political entities have a special position recognized by international treaty or agreement resulting in a certain level of autonomy or differences in immigration rules. These are sometimes[3] considered dependencies,[4] but are officially considered by their controlling states to be integral parts of the state.[3] Examples are Åland (Finland), Hong Kong (China), and Macau (China).[5]

Lists of dependent territories

Dependency claims without general international recognition, including all claims in Antarctica, are listed in italics. The list includes several territories that are not included in the list of non-self-governing territories listed by the General Assembly of the United Nations.[6] This list includes territories that have not been legally incorporated into their governing state.

New Zealand


United Kingdom

United States

Lists of other entities

The following entities have been legally included as a full part of their governing country, but are often described as dependencies. Most inhabited territories have their own country codes.


Although all territories of Australia are considered to be fully integrated in its federative system, and the official status of an external territory does not differ largely from that of a mainland territory (except in regards to immigration law), debate remains as to whether the external territories are integral parts of Australia, due to their not being part of Australia in 1901, when its constituent states federated.[11] They are often listed separately for statistical purposes.





Inhabited territories Administration ISO 3166 country code
 French Polynesia Overseas collectivity since 2003; Overseas country since 2004. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. PF PYF 258
 New Caledonia "Sui generis" collectivity since 1999. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. NC NCL 540
 Saint Barthélemy Overseas collectivities since 2007. BL BLM 652
Collectivity of Saint Martin Saint Martin MF MAF 663
 Saint Pierre and Miquelon Territorial collectivity since 1985; overseas collectivity since 2003. PM SPM 666
 Wallis and Futuna Overseas territory since 1961; overseas collectivity since 2003. WF WLF 876
Uninhabited territories Administration ISO 3166 country code
France Clipperton Island Island administered by the Minister for Overseas Territories. No permanent population. no separate code
French Southern and Antarctic Lands French Southern and Antarctic Lands The French Southern and Antarctic Lands (called TAAF for Terres australes et antartiques françaises) is an Overseas territory since 1955, administered from Paris by an Administrateur Supérieur. No permanent population. Includes the French territorial claim in Antarctica: Adelie Land. TF ATF 260


Division Administration ISO 3166 country code
 Aruba Each is defined as a "country" ("land") within the Kingdom of the Netherlands by the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Aruba obtained full autonomy in internal affairs upon separation from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986. Curaçao and Sint Maarten were part of the Netherlands Antilles until it was dissolved in October 2010. The government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands virtually but not entirely coincides with the government of the Netherlands, and is responsible for defence, foreign affairs and nationality law. Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands but not of the European Union, but owing to their Dutch nationality, its citizens are Citizens of the European Union. Baseball players from Curaçao have contributed to Dutch domination of the European Baseball Championships. AW ABW 533
 Curaçao CW CUW 531
 Sint Maarten SX SXM 534
 Bonaire Following the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in October 2010, Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius became formally integrated with the Netherlands as special municipalities, although a different system of law exists. The territories are not part of the European Union, but owing to their Dutch nationality, its citizens are Citizens of the European Union. BQ BES 535
 Sint Eustatius


United States


Three Crown dependencies are in a form of association with the UK. They are independently administrated jurisdictions, although the British Government is solely responsible for defence and international representation, and has ultimate responsibility for ensuring good government. They do not have diplomatic recognition as independent states, but they are not an integrated part of the UK, nor do they form part of the European Union. The UK Parliament retains the ability to legislate for the Crown dependencies even without the agreement of the insular legislatures. None of the Crown dependencies has representatives in the UK Parliament. Bermuda and Gibraltar have similar relationships to the UK as the Crown dependencies. While Britain is officially responsible for defence and international representation, these jurisdictions maintain their own militaries and have been granted limited diplomatic powers, in addition to having internal self-government. Nevertheless, they are British overseas territories.

New Zealand and dependencies share the same Governor-General and constitute one realm. The Cook Islands and Niue are officially termed associated states.

Puerto Rico (since 1952) and the Northern Mariana Islands (since 1986) are non-independent states freely associated with the United States. The mutually negotiated Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in Political Union with the United States was approved in 1976. The Covenant was fully implemented November 3, 1986, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation no. 5564, which conferred United States citizenship on legally qualified CNMI residents.[18]

Under the Constitution of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico is described as a Commonwealth and Puerto Ricans have a degree of administrative autonomy similar to citizens of a U.S. state. Puerto Ricans "were collectively made U.S. citizens" in 1917 as a result of the Jones-Shafroth Act.[19][20] The commonly used name in Spanish of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, literally "Associated Free State of Puerto Rico", which sounds similar to "free association" particularly when loosely used in Spanish, is sometimes erroneously interpreted to mean that Puerto Rico's relationship with United States is based on a Compact of Free Association and at other times erroneously held to mean that Puerto Rico's relationship with United States is based on an Interstate compact. This is a constant source of ambiguity and confusion when trying to define, understand and explain Puerto Rico's political relationship with the United States. For various reasons Puerto Rico's political status differs from that of the Pacific Islands that entered into Compacts of Free Association with the United States. As sovereign states, these islands have full right to conduct their own foreign relations, while the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has territorial status subject to United States congressional authority under the Constitution's Territory Clause, “to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory… belonging to the United States.”.[21] Puerto Rico does not have the right to unilaterally declare independence, and at the last referendum (1998) the narrow majority voted for "none of the above", which was a formally undefined alternative used by commonwealth supporters to express their desire for an "enhanced commonwealth" option.[21]

This kind of relationship also can be found in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is a federacy. The continental part is organized like a unitary state but the status of its territories (Aruba, since 1986, and the Netherlands Antilles, since 1954 until 2010) can be considered dependencies or "associated non-independent states". After the split-up of the Netherlands Antilles, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are separate associated states like Aruba.

Additionally, Denmark operates in a similar manner to a federacy. The Faroes and Greenland are two self-governing territories, or regions within the Kingdom. The relationship between Denmark proper and the two territories is semi-officially termed the "Rigsfællesskabet".

See also

Notes and references

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA World Factbook.


  • George Drower, Britain's Dependent Territories, Dartmouth, 1992
  • George Drower, Overseas Territories Handbook, TSO, 1998

External links

  • WorldStatesmen- includes former dependent states

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