Re: Address of ISO 3166 mailing list

From: John Cowan (
Date: Sun Jun 08 2003 - 15:26:26 EDT

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    Philippe Verdy scripsit:

    > This is probably true for ISO3166-1 (country codes) which is under
    > governments control and policy (no discussions except at diplomatic
    > levels). This is the only part of the ISO3166 standard that is well
    > maintained and effectively needs no discussion (a couple of codes
    > is proposed and accepted by ISO3166MA when the UN adds a country and
    > assigns it a numeric code and official names in its statistics records,
    > to match the official name in a native language, and in working languages
    > of the UN).

    Unfortunately, the MA's commitment to stability is less than it should be.
    So far they have not dared to change any of the alpha-2 codes, perhaps
    because they are in use as Internet domain names, but the alpha-3 codes
    have been changed for nationalistic or even whimsical reasons.

    Even now they are considering whether (and to what) to change the "yu"
    code to, now that the name of the country has changed to "Serbia and
    Montenegro". (The abandonment of the "su" code reflected the actual
    disappearance of a country, not merely its shrinkage and renaming.)
    This is not so much maintaining as over-maintaining.

    UNSD's 3-digit numbers, OTOH, are rock-solid.

    > So how can the ISO3166 Maintenance Agency do its work on ISO3166-2,
    > if the UN does not even provide this data, and there is no dicussion
    > and no working group to unify and update obsolete records? Shouldn't
    > this normalization of ISO3166-2 be discussed and maintained by UNESCO,
    > or by the International Postal Organization?

    I admit that the situation is bad, but I don't see how any sort of
    centralized organization would make it better. 3166-2 is not even
    freely available over the Net, except for the bits of it that are
    used in LOCODE. The only possible route to improvement would be
    jawboning the various countries to get their acts together, or a
    (desperate) attempt to abandon the per-country nature of the thing
    and have a unitary committee do the job by itself, resulting in
    huge complaints from almost every country.

    In politics, obedience and support      John Cowan <>
    are the same thing.  --Hannah Arendt

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