United Nations geoscheme

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Statistical regions as defined by the UNSD. Antarctica is not shown. United Nations geographical subregions.png
Statistical regions as defined by the UNSD. Antarctica is not shown.

The United Nations geoscheme is a system which divides the countries of the world into regional and subregional groups. It was devised by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) based on the M49 coding classification. [1]

In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics, human impact characteristics, and the interaction of humanity and the environment. Geographic regions and sub-regions are mostly described by their imprecisely defined, and sometimes transitory boundaries, except in human geography, where jurisdiction areas such as national borders are defined in law.

A subregion is a part of a larger region or continent and is usually based on location. Cardinal directions, such as south or southern, are commonly used to define a subregion.

The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), formerly the United Nations Statistical Office, serves under the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) as the central mechanism within the Secretariat of the United Nations to supply the statistical needs and coordinating activities of the global statistical system. The Division is overseen by the United Nations Statistical Commission, established in 1947, as the apex entity of the global statistical system and highest decision making body for coordinating international statistical activities. It brings together the Chief Statisticians from member states from around the world.



The creators note that "the assignment of countries or areas to specific groupings is for statistical convenience and does not imply any assumption regarding political or other affiliation of countries or territories". [1] The schema was created for statistical analysis and consists of macro-geographical regions arranged to the extent possible according to continents. Within each region, smaller geographical subregions and sometimes intermediate regions contain countries. Countries are also grouped nongeographically into selected economic and other sets.

Continent Very large landmass identified by convention

A continent is one of several very large landmasses. This type of landmass is known to exist only on Earth. Generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in area to smallest, they are: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.

Antarctica is a country-level area but not included in any geographical region.

Antarctica Polar continent in the Earths southern hemisphere

Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. At 14,200,000 square kilometres, it is the fifth-largest continent and nearly twice the size of Australia. At 0.00008 people per square kilometre, it is by far the least densely populated continent. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages 1.9 km in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The UNSD geoscheme does not set a standard for the entire United Nations System, and it often differs from geographic definitions used by the autonomous United Nations specialized agencies for their own organizational convenience. For instance, UNSD includes Georgia and Cyprus in Western Asia, yet the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and UNESCO include them in Europe. [2] [3]

United Nations System group of legally and financially autonomous organizations that are associated with the UN

The United Nations System consists of the United Nations, and the six principal organs of the United Nations: the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the UN Secretariat, specialized agencies, and affiliated organizations. The executive heads of some of the United Nations System organizations and the World Trade Organization, which is not formally part of the United Nations System, have seats on the United Nations System Chief Executives' Board for Coordination (CEB). This body, chaired by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, meets twice a year to co-ordinate the work of the organizations of the United Nations System.

Georgia (country) Country in the Caucasus region

Georgia, known until 1995 as the Republic of Georgia, is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital and largest city is Tbilisi. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 square kilometres (26,911 sq mi), and its 2017 population is about 3.718 million. Georgia is a unitary parliamentary republic, with the government elected through a representative democracy.

Cyprus Island country in Mediterranean

Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus, is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean and the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean, located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, northwest of Israel and Palestine, north of Egypt, and southeast of Greece.

Alternative groupings

Other alternative groupings include the World Bank regional classification, [4] CIA World Factbook regions and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers Geographic Regions. [5] [6]

The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of poorer countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects. It comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA). The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group.


North Africa Northernmost region of Africa

North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Morocco in the west, to Egypt's Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the east. Others have limited it to the countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, a region that was known by the French during colonial times as "Afrique du Nord" and is known by Arabs as the Maghreb. The most commonly accepted definition includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Sudan, the 6 countries that shape the top North of the African continent. Meanwhile, "North Africa", particularly when used in the term North Africa and the Middle East, often refers only to the countries of the Maghreb and Libya. Egypt, being also part of the Middle East, is often considered separately, due to being both North African and Middle Eastern at the same time.

Sub-Saharan Africa area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara Desert

Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all African countries that are fully or partially located south of the Sahara. It contrasts with North Africa, whose territories are part of the League of Arab states within the Arab world. The states of Somalia, Djibouti, Comoros and the Arabic speaking Mauritania are however geographically in sub-Saharan Africa, although they are members of the Arab League as well. The UN Development Program lists 46 of Africa’s 54 countries as “sub-Saharan,” excluding Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia.

East Africa Eastern region of the African continent

East Africa or Eastern Africa is the eastern region of the African continent, variably defined by geography. In the United Nations Statistics Division scheme of geographic regions, 20 territories make up Eastern Africa:


*Northern America, the Caribbean, and Central America together form the geographic continent of North America. [1]




See also

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Western Europe region comprising the westerly countries of Europe

Western Europe is the region comprising the western part of Europe. Though the term Western Europe is commonly used, there is no commonly agreed-upon definition of the countries that it encompasses.

Northern Europe northern region of the European continent

North Europe is the geographical region in Europe roughly north of the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, which is about 54°N. Narrower definitions may be based on other geographical factors such as climate and ecology. A broader definition would include the area north of the Alps. Countries which are central-western, central or central-eastern are not usually considered part of either Northern or Southern Europe.

Western Asia Westernmost portion of Asia

Western Asia, West Asia, Southwestern Asia or Southwest Asia is the westernmost subregion of Asia. The concept is in limited use, as it significantly overlaps with the Middle East, the main difference usually being the exclusion of the majority of Egypt, which would be counted as part of North Africa, and of European Turkey and the inclusion of the Caucasus. The term is sometimes used for the purposes of grouping countries in statistics, in which case Egypt might be excluded and Turkey included entirely. The total population of Western Asia is an estimated 300 million as of 2015. Although the term "Western Asia" is mostly used as a convenient division of contemporary sovereign states into a manageable number of world regions for statistical purposes, it is sometimes used instead of the more geopolitical term "Middle East".

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United Nations Regional Groups geopolitical regional groups of the UN

The United Nations Regional Groups are the geopolitical regional groups of member states of the United Nations. Originally, UN member states were unofficially grouped into five geopolitical regional groups. What began as an informal means of sharing the distribution of posts for General Assembly committees has taken on a much more expansive role. Many UN bodies are allocated on the basis of geographical representation. Top leadership positions, including Secretary-General and President of the General Assembly, are rotated among the regional groups. The groups also coordinate substantive policy and form common fronts for negotiations and bloc voting.

United Nations geoscheme for Africa

The following is an alphabetical list of subregions in the United Nations geoscheme for Africa, used by the UN and maintained by the UNSD department for statistical purposes.

United Nations geoscheme for the Americas

The following is an alphabetical list of countries in the United Nations geoscheme for the Americas grouped by subregion and intermediate region. Note that the continent of North America comprises the intermediate regions of Northern America, Caribbean, and Central America.

UN M49 or the Standard Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use is a standard for area codes used by the United Nations for statistical purposes, developed and maintained by the United Nations Statistics Division. Each area code is a 3-digit number which can refer to a wide variety of geographical, political, or economic regions, like a continent, a country, or a specific group of developed or developing countries. Codes assigned in the system generally do not change when the country or area's name changes, but instead change when the territorial extent of the country or area changes significantly, although there have been exceptions to this rule.

The World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (WGSRPD) is a biogeographical system developed by the international Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) organization, formerly the International Working Group on Taxonomic Databases. The WGSRPD standards, like other standards for data fields in botanical databases, were developed to promote "the wider and more effective dissemination of information about the world's heritage of biological organisms for the benefit of the world at large". The system provides clear definitions and codes for recording plant distributions at four scales or levels, from "botanical continents" down to parts of large countries. Current users of the system include the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), and the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP).

United Nations geoscheme for Europe

The following is an alphabetical list of subregions in the United Nations geoscheme for Europe, created by the United Nations Statistics Division. The scheme subdivides the continent into Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, and Western Europe. The UNSD notes that "the assignment of countries or areas to specific groupings is for statistical convenience and does not imply any assumption regarding political or other affiliation of countries or territories".

United Nations geoscheme for Oceania

The following is an alphabetical list of subregions in the United Nations geoscheme for Oceania.

Boundaries between the continents of Earth Global geographic limits

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United Nations geoscheme for Asia

The following is an alphabetical list of subregions in the United Nations geoscheme for Asia, used by the UN and maintained by the UNSD department for statistical purposes.

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The term Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is an English-language acronym referring to the Caribbean and Latin America region. The term LAC covers an extensive region, extending from Bahamas to Chile and Argentina. The region consists over 670.230.000 people as for 2016, and spanned for 21.951.000 km2.


  1. 1 2 3 "UNSD — Methodology". unstats.un.org. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  2. United Nations Industrial Organisation p. 14
  3. UNESCO, Europe and North America, Retrieved: 10 May 2016
  4. Katrin Elborgh-Woytek; Monique Newiak; Kalpana Kochhar; Stefania Fabrizio; Kangni Kpodar; Philippe Wingender; Benedict J. Clements; Gerd Schwartz (20 September 2013). Women, Work, and the Economy:Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity. International Monetary Fund. p. 7. ISBN   978-1-4843-9529-5. Country groups are based on UN geoscheme and World Bank regional classification
  5. ICANN Geographic Regions
  6. ICANN Geographical Regions, Final Report by the ccNSO Regions Working Group, For Submission to the ICANN Board, 24 September 2007