Dependent territory

Dependent territory

Territory that does not possess full political independence as a sovereign state

A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency (sometimes referred as an external territory) is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state and remains politically outside the controlling state's integral area. As such, a dependent territory includes a range of non-integrated not fully to non-independent territory types, from associated states to non-self-governing territories (e.g. a colony).

A dependent territory is commonly distinguished from a country subdivision by being considered not to be a constituent part of a sovereign state. An administrative subdivision, instead, is understood to be a division of a state proper. A dependent territory, conversely, often maintains a great degree of autonomy from its controlling state. Historically, most colonies were considered to be dependent territories. Not all autonomous entities, though, are considered to be dependent territories.[1][failed verification] Most inhabited, dependent territories have their own ISO 3166 country codes.

Some political entities inhabit a special position guaranteed by an international treaty or another agreement, thereby creating a certain level of autonomy (e.g. a difference in immigration rules). Those entities are sometimes considered to be, or are at least grouped with, dependent territories,[2] but are officially considered by their governing states to be an integral part of those states.[2] Such an example is Åland, an autonomous region of Finland.


The lists below include the following:

Dependent territories

Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark in North America
  • Two states in free association, one dependent territory, and one Antarctic claim in the listing for New Zealand
  • One uninhabited territory and two Antarctic claims in the listing for Norway
  • 13 overseas territories (ten autonomous, two used primarily as military bases, and one uninhabited), three Crown dependencies, and one Antarctic claim in the listing for the United Kingdom
  • 13 unincorporated territories (five inhabited and eight uninhabited) and two claimed but uncontrolled territories in the listing for the United States

Similar entities

  • Six external territories (three inhabited and three uninhabited) and one Antarctic claim in the listing for Australia
  • Two special administrative regions in the listing for China
  • Two self-governing territories with autonomy in internal affairs in the listing for Denmark
  • One autonomous region governed according to an act and international treaties in the listing for Finland
  • Five autonomous overseas collectivities, one sui generis collectivity, and two uninhabited overseas territories (one of which includes an Antarctic claim) in the listing for France
  • Three constituent countries with autonomy in internal affairs in the listing for the Netherlands
  • One internal territory with limited sovereignty in the listing for Norway
Aruba, a Dependent territory of the Netherlands in the Caribbean
Dependent territories and their sovereign states. All territories are labeled according to ISO 3166-1[note 1] or with numbers.[note 2] Coloured areas without labels are integral parts of their respective countries. Antarctica is shown as a condominium instead of individual claims.

Lists of dependent territories

This list includes all territories that have not been legally incorporated into their governing state, including several territories that are not on the list of non-self-governing territories of the General Assembly of the United Nations.[3] All claims in Antarctica are listed in italics.

New Zealand

New Zealand has two self-governing associated states, one dependent territory, and a territorial claim in Antarctica.[4][better source needed]

More information Associated state, Administration ...


Norway has one dependent territory and two Antarctic claims. Norway also possesses the inhabited islands of Svalbard where Norwegian sovereignty is limited (see below).

More information Dependent territory (uninhabited), Administration ...

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has three "Crown Dependencies", thirteen "Overseas Territories" (ten autonomous, two used primarily as military bases, and one uninhabited), and one Antarctic claim.

More information Crown Dependency, Administration ...

United States

The United States has 13 "unincorporated" dependent territories under its administration and two claimed territories outside its control.[12] The uninhabited Palmyra Atoll is administered similarly to some of these territories, and is usually included on lists of U.S. overseas territories, but it is excluded from this list because it is classified in U.S. law as an incorporated territory.[13] The U.S. Constitution does not apply in full to the insular areas.[14]

More information Unincorporated organized territory, Administration ...

Lists of similar entities

The following entities are, according to the law of their state, integral parts of the state but exhibit many characteristics of dependent territories. This list is generally limited to entities that are either subject to an international treaty on their status, uninhabited, or have a unique level of autonomy and are largely self-governing in matters other than international affairs. It generally does not include entities with no unique autonomy, such as the five overseas departments and regions (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Réunion) of France; the BES islands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba) of the Netherlands; Jan Mayen of Norway; and Palmyra Atoll of the United States. Entities with only limited unique autonomy, such as Barbuda of Antigua and Barbuda; Sabah and Sarawak of Malaysia; the two autonomous regions (the Azores and Madeira) of Portugal; Nevis of Saint Kitts and Nevis; the Canary Islands and the two autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla) of Spain; and Zanzibar of Tanzania are also not included. All claims in Antarctica are listed in italics.


Australia has six external territories in its administration and one Antarctic claim.

Although all territories of Australia are considered to be fully integrated in its federal 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 (with the exception of the Coral Sea Islands, which was a part of Queensland).[15] Norfolk Island was self-governing from 1979 to 2016.[16] The external territories are often grouped separately from Australia proper for statistical purposes.[citation needed]

More information External territory, Administration ...


The People's Republic of China (PRC) has two special administrative regions (SARs) that are governed according to the constitution and respective basic laws. The SARs greatly differ from Mainland China in administrative, economic, legislative, and judicial terms including by currency, left-hand versus right-hand traffic, official languages, and immigration control. Although the PRC does claim sovereignty over Taiwan (governed by the Republic of China), it is not listed here as the PRC government does not have de facto control of the territory.

More information Special administrative region, Administration ...


The Kingdom of Denmark contains two autonomous territories with their own governments and legislatures, and input into foreign affairs.[21]

More information Autonomous territory, Administration ...


Finland has one autonomous region that is also subject to international treaties.

More information Autonomous region, Administration ...


France has overseas six autonomous collectivities and two uninhabited territories (one of which includes an Antarctic claim). This does not include its "standard" overseas regions (which are also overseas departments) of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Réunion. Although also located overseas, they have the same status as the regions of metropolitan France. Nonetheless, all of France's overseas territory is considered an integral part of the French Republic.

More information Overseas collectivity, Administration ...


The Kingdom of the Netherlands comprises three autonomous "constituent countries" in the Caribbean (listed below) and one constituent country, the Netherlands, with most of its area in Europe but also encompassing three overseas Caribbean municipalitiesBonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (these three Caribbean municipalities are excluded here because they are directly administered by the Government of the Netherlands[27]). All citizens of the Dutch Kingdom share the same nationality and are thus citizens of the European Union, but only the European portion of the Kingdom is a part of the territory of the Union, the Customs Union, and the Eurozone while other areas have overseas countries and territory status.

More information Constituent country, Administration ...


Norway has, in the Arctic, one inhabited archipelago with restrictions placed on Norwegian sovereignty — Svalbard.[28][29] Unlike the country's dependent territory (Bouvet Island) and Antarctic claims (see above), Svalbard is a part of the Kingdom of Norway.[30]

More information Territory, Administration ...


Bora Bora Island, French Polynesia
Diego Garcia Island, British Indian Ocean Territory

Three Crown Dependencies are in a form of association with the United Kingdom. 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 neither are they integrated into the UK. The UK Parliament retains the ability to legislate for the crown dependencies even without the agreement of their legislatures. No crown dependency has representation in the UK Parliament.

Although they are British Overseas Territories, Bermuda and Gibraltar have similar relationships to the UK as do the Crown Dependencies. While Britain is officially responsible for their defence and international representation, these jurisdictions maintain their own militaries and have been granted limited diplomatic powers, in addition to having internal self-government.

New Zealand and its dependencies share the same governor-general and constitute one monarchic 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 on November 3, 1986, under Presidential Proclamation no. 5564, which conferred U.S. citizenship on legally qualified CNMI residents.[31] Under the Constitution of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico is described as a Commonwealth and Puerto Ricans have a degree of administrative autonomy similar to that of a citizen of a U.S. state. Puerto Ricans "were collectively made U.S. citizens" in 1917, as a result of the Jones–Shafroth Act.[32][33] 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 the United States is based on a Compact of Free Association and at other times is erroneously held to mean that Puerto Rico's relationship with the U.S. 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 the full right to conduct their foreign relations, while the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has territorial status subject to U.S. 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."[34] 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.[34]

This kind of relationship can also be found in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is termed a federacy. The European continental part is organised like a unitary state. However, the status of its "constituent countries" in the Caribbean (Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten) can be considered akin to dependencies[35][36] or "associated non-independent states."

The Kingdom of Denmark also operates similarly, akin to another federacy. The Faroe Islands and Greenland are two self-governing territories or regions within the Kingdom. The relationship between Denmark proper and these two territories is semi-officially termed the Rigsfællesskabet ("Unity of the Realm").

Overview of inhabited dependent territories

More information Name, Population (2016) ...

See also


  1. Each territory in the United States Minor Outlying Islands is labeled UM- followed by the first letter of its name and another unique letter if needed.
  2. The following territories do not have ISO 3166-1 codes:
    1: Akrotiri and Dhekelia
    2: Ashmore and Cartier Islands
    3: Coral Sea Islands
  3. Midway Atoll and Wake Island have a few people, but these territories are not permanently inhabited.
  4. Willis Island is permanently staffed and occupied by a small team of meteorologists.
  5. The Antarctic claim of Adélie Land (a district of the TAAF)[25] is not included within the ISO 3166 designation. The ISO designates the remainder of the TAAF the "French Southern Territories".[26]



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  2. "Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories (1945-1999)". United Nations. Archived from the original on 12 Jan 2017. Retrieved 20 Jan 2023.
  3. Salesa, Damon Ieremia (2017). Island time : New Zealand's Pacific futures. Wellington, New Zealand: Bridget Williams Books. pp. 6–7. ISBN 9781988533506.
  4. "Find a publication | New Zealand Ministry of Justice". Archived from the original on 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2013-11-14.
  5. Conan, Neal (11 August 2015). "Pacific News Minute: Cook Islands Bid for UN Membership On Hold". Hawai'i Public Radio. Archived from the original on 9 December 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  6. Connell, John (2009). "'We are not ready' : colonialism or autonomy in Tokelau". In Baldacchino, Godfrey; Milne, David (eds.). The case for non-sovereignty : lessons from sub-national island jurisdictions. Routledge. pp. 157–168. ISBN 9780415455503.
  7. New Zealand and Antarctica. NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2010
  8. CIA (2010-07-15). "Guernsey at the CIA's page". CIA. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
  9. CIA (2010-07-15). "Jersey at the CIA's page". CIA. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
  10. CIA (2010-07-15). "The Isle of Man at the CIA's page". CIA. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
  11. "U.S. Insular Areas Application of the U.S. Constitution" (PDF). United States General Accounting Office. November 1997. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 February 2020. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  12. "Definitions of Insular Area Political Organizations". U.S. Department of the Interior. 12 June 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  13. "U.S. Insular Areas Applicability of Relevant Provisions of the U.S. Constitution" (PDF). Washington, D.C. 20648: United States General Accounting Office. June 20, 1991. p. 4. Retrieved August 14, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  14. Carney, Gerard (2006). The constitutional systems of the Australian states and territories. Canberra: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-86305-6.
  15. Phillips, Keri (23 June 2016). "The end of Norfolk Island's self-government". ABC. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  16. "Territories of Australia". The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. 2020-02-28. Retrieved 2020-04-25. The Australian Government, through the department, administers the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Norfolk Island, the Jervis Bay Territory, the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and the Coral Sea Islands. The department also manages the Government's interests in the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory.
  17. 广电总局批准31个境外频道在涉外宾馆等申请接收. (2006-12-30). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  18. 項懷誠:香港是社保基金境外投資的首選地之一 Archived 2013-06-17 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  19. Rakitskaya, Inna A.; Molchakov, Nikita Y. (2019). "Democratization of territorial constitution : current trends and the constitutional experience of Denmark". International Journal of Economics and Business Administration. 7 (1). Eleftherios Thalassinos: 166–172. ISSN 2241-4754. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  20. "Nouvelle-Calédonie Présentation" [New Caledonia Presentation]. (in French). Ministre des Outre-mer. Archived from the original on 21 May 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  21. "Loi n° 55-1052 du 6 août 1955 portant statut des Terres australes et antarctiques françaises et de l'île de Clipperton" [Law n° 55-1052 of 6 August 1955 relating to the statute of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands and of the island of Clipperton]. (in French). Légifrance. 6 August 1955. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  22. "French Southern Territories". ISO. 26 November 2018. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  23. Dependencies and Areas of Special Sovereignty, U.S. Department of State. "Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius now fall under the direct administration of the Netherlands". Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  24. "Spitsbergen Treaty". Wikisource. 9 February 1920. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  25. "The Svalbard Treaty". Governor of Svalbard. 9 April 2008. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  26. Skagestad, Odd Gunnar (2004). "The Scope for Norwegian Commitments Related to International Research on Jan Mayen Island". In Skreslet, Stig (ed.). Jan Mayen Island in Scientific Focus (PDF). Springer Netherlands. p. 272. ISBN 978-1-4020-2955-4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 January 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  27. CIA (2010-07-15). "Northern Mariana Islands at the CIA's page". CIA. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
  28. The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion: 1803–1898. By Sanford Levinson and Bartholomew H. Sparrow. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 2005. Page 166, 178. "U.S. citizenship was extended to residents of Puerto Rico under the Jones Act, chap. 190, 39 Stat. 951 (1971) (codified at 48 U.S.C. § 731 (1987)")
  29. CIA (2010-07-15). "Puerto Rico at the CIA's page". CIA. Retrieved 2010-07-15.



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

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