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.
A dependency is commonly distinguished from 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. The dependencies that remain generally maintain a very high degree of political autonomy. At the same time, not all autonomous entities are considered to be dependencies, and not all dependencies are autonomous. Most inhabited dependent territories have their own ISO 3166 country codes.
Some 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 considered dependencies, but are officially considered by their controlling states to be integral parts of the state. Examples are Åland (Finland) and Hong Kong (China).
The following listings indicate (or can be interpreted to indicate):
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 listed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Dependency claims without general international recognition, including all claims in Antarctica, are listed in italics.
Summary: The Realm of New Zealand includes two self-governing states in free association with New Zealand, one territory (Tokelau), and a territorial claim in Antarctica.
|In free association||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Cook Islands||Self-governing state in free association with New Zealand since 1965. Cook Islands' status is considered to be equivalent to independence for international law purposes, and the country exercises full sovereignty over its internal and external affairs. Under the terms of the free association agreement, however, New Zealand retains some responsibility for the foreign relations and defence of the Cook Islands. These responsibilities confer no rights of control and are exercised only at the request of the Cook Islands Government. The government of New Zealand does not consider the Cook Islands to be sovereign due to its continued use of New Zealand citizenship.||CK COK 184|
|Niue||Self-governing state in free association with New Zealand since 1974. Niue's status is considered to be equivalent to independence for international law purposes, and the country exercises full sovereignty over its internal and external affairs. Under the terms of the free association agreement, however, New Zealand retains some responsibility for the foreign relations and defence of Niue. These responsibilities confer no rights of control and are exercised only at the request of the Government of Niue. The government of New Zealand does not consider Niue to be sovereign due to its continued use of New Zealand citizenship.||NU NIU 570|
|Territory||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Tokelau||Territory of New Zealand. As it moves toward free association with New Zealand, Tokelau and New Zealand have agreed to a draft constitution. A UN-sponsored referendum on self-governance in February 2006 did not produce the two-thirds supermajority necessary for changing the current political status. Another one was in October 2007, which failed to reach the ⅔ margin.||TK TKL 772|
|Ross Dependency||No permanent population. New Zealand's Antarctic claim.||no separate code|
Summary: Norway has 1 dependent territory and 2 dependency claims.
|Dependency||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Bouvet Island||No permanent population. Dependency administered from Oslo by the Polar Affairs Department of the Ministry of Justice and the Police.||BV BVT 074|
|Peter I Island||No permanent population. Dependencies (subject to the Antarctic Treaty System) administered from Oslo by the Polar Affairs Department of the Ministry of Justice and the Police.||no separate code|
|Queen Maud Land||no separate code|
Summary: the United Kingdom has 12 Overseas Territories (10 autonomous, 1 restricted to military personnel and 1 uninhabited), 3 Crown dependencies (autonomous), 1 group of Sovereign Base Areas, and 1 dependency claim.
|Overseas territories (inhabited)||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Anguilla||House of Assembly of Anguilla handles domestic affairs. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||AI AIA 660|
|Bermuda||Parliament of Bermuda handles domestic affairs and the territory is defined by the UK as self-governing. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||BM BMU 060|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||Administered by the Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory, reporting to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Original population removed between 1967 and 1973, and presently restricted to military personnel. Also claimed by Mauritius.||IO IOT 086|
|British Virgin Islands||House of Assembly of the British Virgin Islands handles domestic affairs. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories||VG VGB 092|
|Cayman Islands||Legislative Assembly of the Cayman Islands handles domestic affairs. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||KY CYM 136|
|Falkland Islands||Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands handles domestic affairs. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Also claimed by Argentina.||FK FLK 238|
|Gibraltar||Gibraltar Parliament handles domestic affairs. Almost complete internal self-government. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||GI GIB 292|
|Montserrat||Legislative Council of Montserrat handles domestic affairs. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||MS MSR 500|
|Pitcairn Islands||Island Council of the Pitcairn Islands handles some domestic affairs, however decisions are subject to approval by the Governor of the Pitcairn Islands, reporting to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||PN PCN 612|
|Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha||Legislative Council of Saint Helena, Ascension Island Council and Tristan da Cunha Island Council handle domestic affairs. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||SH SHN 654|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||House of Assembly of the Turks and Caicos Islands handles some domestic affairs. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||TC TCA 796|
|Overseas territories (uninhabited)||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands||Administered by the Commissioner of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (who is also the Governor of the Falkland Islands), reporting to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. No permanent population. Also claimed by Argentina.||GS SGS 239|
|British Antarctic Territory||Administered by the Commissioner of the British Antarctic Territory, reporting to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. No permanent population. The UK's Antarctic claim.||no separate code|
|Sovereign Base Areas||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Akrotiri and Dhekelia||Administered by the Commander of British Forces Cyprus, reporting to the Ministry of Defence. Permanent Cypriot population, as well as British military personnel and their families.||no separate code|
|Crown dependencies||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Guernsey||Responsibility for defence, international representation, and good government rests with the United Kingdom. Though, the Parliament of the United Kingdom can legislate on their behalf, if it deem necessary.[not in citation given]||GG GGY 831|
|Jersey||JE JEY 832|
|Isle of Man||IM IMN 833|
Summary: the United States has 11 dependent territories and 2 dependency claims. The United States also has one incorporated territory.
|Unincorporated Organized territories
|Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Guam||Unincorporated organized territory; policy relations between Guam and the U.S. conducted under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||GU GUM 316|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Commonwealth in political union with the U.S.; federal funding administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior.||MP MNP 580|
|Puerto Rico||Unincorporated organized territory of the U.S. with commonwealth status; policy relations between Puerto Rico and the U.S. conducted under the jurisdiction of the Office of the President.||PR PRI 630|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Unincorporated organized territory; policy relations between the Virgin Islands and the U.S. conducted under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||VI VIR 850|
|Unincorporated Unorganized territories
|Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|American Samoa||Unincorporated and unorganized territory administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||AS ASM 016|
|Wake Island||Unorganized and unincorporated territory administered from Washington, D.C. by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States Department of the Interior. Claimed by the Marshall Islands.||UM UMI 581|
|Unincorporated Unorganized territories
|Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Baker Island||Unorganized and unincorporated territory Supervised by the U.S. Air Force, administered from Washington, D.C. by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and is claimed by the Marshall Islands.||UM UMI 581|
|Navassa Island||Unincorporated territory of the U.S. administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior from the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Boquerón, Puerto Rico. Claimed by Haiti and privately via the Guano Islands Act.|
|Incorporated Unorganized territory
|Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Palmyra Atoll||no separate code|
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 which 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. As a result, it does not include most entities with no unique autonomy, such as the overseas regions of France, or only limited unique autonomy, such as the Autonomous Regions of Portugal. Dependency claims without general international recognition, including all claims in Antarctica, are listed in italics.
Summary: Australia has 6 territories in its administration and 1 dependency claim.
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. They are often listed separately for statistical purposes.
|External territories (inhabited)||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Christmas Island||Administered from Canberra by the Attorney-General's Department.||CX CXR 162|
|Cocos (Keeling) Islands||CC CCK 166|
|Norfolk Island||Commonwealth responsibilities administered from Canberra through the Attorney-General's Department.||NF NFK 574|
|External territories (uninhabited)||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Ashmore and Cartier Islands||Administered from Canberra by the Attorney-General's Department.||no separate code|
|Coral Sea Islands||no separate code|
|Australian Antarctic Territory||Administered from Canberra by the Australian Antarctic Division of the Department of the Environment and Heritage.||no separate code|
|Heard Island and McDonald Islands||HM HMD 334|
Summary: China has 2 special administrative regions which are governed according to international treaties.
|Special Administrative Regions||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Hong Kong||Former British colony. Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China since 1997 pursuant to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, an international treaty registered with the United Nations. The Hong Kong Basic Law provides for the territory to enjoy a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the one country, two systems model under the central government of China. Although the territory is not part of Mainland China, it is officially considered as an integral part of the People's Republic of China.||HK HKG 344|
|Macau||Former Portuguese colony. Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China since 1999 pursuant to the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration, an international treaty registered with the United Nations. The Macau Basic Law provides for the territory to enjoy a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the "one country, two systems" model under the central government of China. Although the territory is not part of Mainland China, it is officially considered as an integral part of the People's Republic of China.||MO MAC 446|
The Kingdom of Denmark contains 2 self-governing countries.
|Constituent country||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Faroe Islands||Self-governing overseas administrative division since 1948. Part of Denmark, but not of the European Union.||FO FRO 234|
|Greenland||Self-governing overseas administrative division since 1979. Part of Denmark. Withdrew from the European Economic Community in 1985.||GL GRL 304|
|Division||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Åland Islands||The Åland Islands are governed according to the Act on the Autonomy of Åland and international treaties. These laws guarantee the islands' autonomy from Finland, which has ultimate sovereignty over them, as well as a demilitarized status||AX ALA 248|
Summary: France has 6 autonomous collectivities, and 2 uninhabited territories. This does not include the overseas regions (which are also overseas departments) of Réunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and Mayotte, which although also located overseas, have the same status as metropolitan France's regions. Nonetheless, all of France's overseas territory is considered to be an integral part of the French Republic.
|Overseas collectivities||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Saint Barthélemy||Seceded from Guadeloupe to become an overseas collectivity in 2007.||BL BLM 652|
|Collectivity of Saint Martin||Seceded from Guadeloupe to become an overseas collectivity in 2007. It is the only overseas collectivity which is fully part of the European Union.||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|
|French Polynesia||Overseas collectivity since 2003 named Overseas country since 2004. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||PF PYF 258|
|Special collectivity||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|New Caledonia||"Sui generis" collectivity since 1999. Appears on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.||NC NCL 540|
|Minor territory (uninhabited)||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Clipperton Island||Island administered by the Minister for Overseas Territories. No permanent population.||no separate code|
|Overseas territory (uninhabited)||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|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|
Summary: The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of 3 Caribbean countries with autonomy in internal affairs, and one country—the Netherlands—with most of its area in Europe, except 3 municipalities also in the Caribbean. The 3 municipalities in the Caribbean—Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius—are not listed as they are directly administered by the Government of the Netherlands. All Dutch citizens of the Kingdom share the same nationality and are thus citizens of the European Union.
|Country||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 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.||AW ABW 533|
|Curaçao||CW CUW 531|
|Sint Maarten||SX SXM 534|
Summary: Norway has one internal territory with limited Norwegian sovereignty—Svalbard. It is part of the Kingdom of Norway, unlike the country's Antarctic dependent territory—Bouvet Island, and two dependency claims (see above).
|Division||Administration||ISO 3166 country code|
|Svalbard||Svalbard is subject to an international treaty with some limits to Norwegian sovereignty.||SJ SJM 744†|
† Svalbard shares an ISO code with Jan Mayen, a remote uninhabited Norwegian island situated south west of the archipelago.
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.
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.
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. 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.". 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.
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".
This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html.
The Federal Government, through the Attorney-General's Department administers Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Jervis Bay, and Norfolk Island as Territories.