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United Nations Organization

Last modified: 2006-09-23 by rob raeside
Keywords: uno | united nations organization | international organization | honor flag | four freedoms flag | peace flag stamp |
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[Flag of UNO] 2:3 by Željko Heimer based on images drawn by Graham Bartram

[Flag of UNO] 3:5 by Željko Heimer based on images drawn by Graham Bartram

The blue color is taken from a UN logo at its website at - Pantone (PMS 279). 

The flag is given as 2:3 or 3:5 or the same ratio as the national flag of the country. A light blue flag with the white emblem in the middle. The emblem consists of a circular map of the earth in azimuthal equidistant projection centered at the North Pole between two olive branches.
Željko Heimer, 2 December 2003

See also:

As of 28 June 2006, following the addition of Montenegro, 192 independent nations were members of the United Nations.

Two countries, generally accepted as independent, are not:

Taiwan, Holy See

See the page on Dependent States for other "countries" that are of course not members of the UN.

Description of the U.N. flag

In "Webster's Concise Encyclopedia of Flags & Coats of Arms', ed. Crampton, reprint 1985:

'UN: In the center of a light blue field there is the white badge of the UN - a simplified map of the world between the North Pole and 60 degrees south with all the inhabited continents shown in outline. The map is flanked by two olive branches... Blue and white are the colors of the UN, the olive branches symbolize world peace, and the map of the world shows the extent of the UN's sphere of influence.'
Jarig Bakker, 21 June 1999

The map projection used is Azimuthal Equidistant, centred at the North Pole. As a consequence the parallels shown (which correspond to latitudes of 60 and 30 degrees South, Equator, and 30 and 60 degrees North) are concentric circles and the ratio of their radii is simply 5:4:3:2:1. Also shown are eight meridians (corresponding to the longitudes divisible by 45 degrees); the international 0 and 180 degrees meridians are shown vertically.

I believe that this map projection was chosen because in contrast to traditional world maps, no particular nation is emphasized.
Jeppe Stig Nielsen, 25 October 2000

The United Nations flag regulations as amended on 1 January 1967

(1) In pursuance to article 1 of the Flag Code the proportions of the United Nations Flag shall be:

(a) Hoist (width) of the United Nations Flag-2
Fly (length) of the United Nations Flag-3;


(b) Hoist (width) of the United Nations Flag-3
Fly (length) of the United Nations Flag-5;


(c) The same proportions as those of the national flag of any country in which the United Nations Flag is flown.

(2) The emblem shall in all cases be one half of the hoist of the United Nations flag and entirely centered.

Quoted from the US Navy's "Flags, Pennants, and Customs," NTP 13(B), which for some reason best known to its compilers quotes the UN Flag Code in its entirety, despite the fact that by US regulations the UN flag can be flown aboard US Navy ships and US military installations only to honor a senior UN official paying a visit (as one would fly a foreign flag for a foreign head of state).

Joe McMillan, 10 January 2001

Flag Colour

The Pantone number for the official flag of the United Nations is reportedly Pantone 279C.
Armand Noel du Payrat, 27 June 2000

From what I remember, the light blue background was chosen as an internationally neutral color - the color of the sky as seen from every nation on Earth.

Dylan Crawfoot, 21 June 1999

Construction Sheet

[Flag of UNO] 2:3 by Željko Heimer

United Nations Flag Code

The Flag Code of the United Nations, in pdf format can be found at It provides primary source material for a number of details. Its reference is ST/SGB/132 and is dated 01 January 1967.

Dates and applicable UN Resolutions are as follows:

  • 92(I), 07 December 1946 Adoption of UN emblem.
  • 167(II), 20 October 1947 Adoption of UN flag, bearing the aforementioned emblem.
  • 19 December 1947 Issue of Flag Code, by Secretary-General, under the authority of the above referenced resolution.
  • 11 November 1952 Flag Code amended by the Secretary-General.
  • 01 January 1967 Regulations issued by the Secretary-General, which replace those Regulations of 11 November 1952, but not the Flag Code itself, which remains as amended on that date.

The Flag Code covers such matters as Design of flag (Article 1), Dignity of flag (2), Flag protocol (3), Use of the flag by the UN and its agencies (4), Use of flag generally (Use of flag in military operations (Article 8), Manufacture and sale of flag (Article 9), Violation (Article 10), Regulations (Article 11).

The provisions of the Regulations are similar: Dimensions of flag (I), Flag protocol (II), Use of flag generally (III), Prohibitions (IV), Mourning (V), Manufacture (VI) Alphabetical order (VII), followed by a Schedule of member nations at that date, in the English alphabetical order and a note stating that the laws of a member state should prevail in respect of any conflict which might exist.

The UN's organisation chart can be found here: This chart also contains a link to each organisation's web site, so as to aid those who might be interested in investigating the meaning of the many acronyms used by the UN.

(1) United Nations, Department of Public Information, Dag Hammarskj÷ld Library, Flag Code of the United Nations, as consulted web site, 29 August 2006
(2) United Nations, Organization Chart of the United Nations, as consulted UN Web site 29 August 2006

Colin Dobson, 31 August 2006

Aircraft Marking

A light blue roundel with the white emblem. Note explains that the organization flag is painted on the fin. (Album des Pavillons, 2000)
Željko Heimer, 2 December 2003

Really? I have never seen the emblem painted onto an aircraft. The insignia used has always been the black letters 'UN'.
Miles Li, 2 December 2003

Cochrane and Elliott (1998) says on page 127, showing the same roundel as in Album 2000:
"UN aircrafts are normally painted white overall and carry the large black lettering 'UNITED NATIONS' or 'UN', and the [UN] flag as a fin flash. [...] There has been some use of the UN emblem as a wing roundel, and recently an increasing use of the national flag of the donor country, usually marked on a fin, smaller then that of the UN."
It also says that the first use of the UN forces was in Israeli war of 1948, though it does not really suggests that the roundels were used already.
Željko Heimer, 3 December 2003

So Proudly They Wave ... Flags of the United Nations

The following article was first written for the "UN Chronicle", the UN's in-house publication, dated December 1992, pages 74 and 75. The article is by Elsa B. Endrst. There is also a photo with comments at the end of the article on the photo.

Projecting an image of unity and hope for the future, 179 flags of UN Member States stand in an undulating row in front of Headquarters in New York City. All the flags are of equal size, except for the 180th - the blue and white flag of the UN - that is slightly larger and stands apart as if to keep a protective watch over the others.

Each day - except on Saturday and Sunday or when the weather is inclement - at approximately 8 a.m., a team of 8 to 11 security officers hoist these colorful national banners. It takes about half an hour to raise all 179 flags. At 4 p.m., the flags are lowered and stored in boxes at the foot of each flag pole. On weekends, unless a meeting takes place, only the UN flag is raised.

While Member States have wide-ranging views on political, social, cultural and other questions, when it comes to flags, they often conform to other nations' designs, patterns, shapes and motifs.

Most national flags are comprised of two or more of seven bold colors: red, blue, green, yellow, orange, black, and white. Nations from the same region often choose similar combinations. For example, Latin American countries prefer yellow, blue and red; and French-speaking African countries favor red, green and yellow.


The resident UN flag expert is Michael Dulka, External Relations Officer for the UN Library and its former map librarian, responsible for many years for giving tours of the UN Dag Hammarskjold Library's map collection to new staff members, visiting dignitaries and groups of researchers.

"We have files for each national flag of the world and also for flags of sub-national groups," explained Mr. Dulka, an American of Polish descent, who sometimes wryly refers to himself as the UN "Flag Pole."

"We keep official, as well as unofficial commercial information, information which often comes from periodicals and monographs. Even if we do not have an accurate depiction of a flag, we are able to provide an accurate description."

Some of the most common questions asked revolve around protocol. UN flags must comply with a specific code - last updated and published by the Secretary-General's office in 1967 - which mandates their size and the order in which they are displayed.

To promote a unified look, all national flags for outdoor display at the UN are 4 by 6 feet, while flags used for indoor ceremonies are 3 by 5 feet. Nations are assigned a flag pole, in English alphabetical order, north to south. With only five spaces left to accommodate new flags, further additions will require some relandscaping of the UN garden.

Creating a flag for a new member State can be an arduous process. First, the Government must provide a sample flag and/or artwork to the UN Protocol Liaison Service, which notifies all concerned departments in the Secretariat, including the Map Collection section and the Security and Safety Service. The Office of General Services is responsible for procuring the actual flag made to UN specifications.


With the rapid parade of 20 new Member States that joined the UN in the past year, there often has not been enough time to manufacture a flag with the correct dimensions. In such instances, the UN temporarily flies a sample of whatever size is provided by the Member State. For several months, San Marino, a 24-square-mile land-locked country in Italy - and the smallest Member State - was represented at UN Headquarters by the largest flag.

Many national flags of the world have totally different proportions than the height-to-width ratio of two to three used by the UN. This can lead to complaints from delegates or officials who notice that their country's flag looks stretched, or otherwise strange to the eye.

The specific shades of colors used can also be a problem, since the UN has a limited selection of color choices for producing its flags. For example, there are only three shades of reds available and therefore the red used on a particular UN flag may not be as bright or as intense as the original pennant.

The type of material used in the original national flag can also create difficulties. Most national flags are made of a type of cloth called bunting, which is extremely resilient to the wear and tear or inclement weather and the passage of years. But some countries use other materials not available in the United States. UN flags are reproduced in nylon, Mr. Dulka reported.

The challenge of accurately replicating new national flags has created some uneasy moments for the UN. Once, the small graphic provided by a new Member State was accidentally photocopied upside-down and produced that way by the manufacturer. The new ambassador immediately noticed the error when he was shown the flag on the day his State was to be admitted. Fortunately, the diagonal stripes of the flag could be temporarily hung upside-down, making the design appear right-side-up when the flag was raised for the first time outside Headquarters.


The study of flags is sometimes called vexillology. [Editor's note: see also Flag Glossary page.]

There are many traditions or codes associated with flags, which dictate when they can be used and how they are to be handled. One tradition forbids the burial of a national flag with the dead. Other mandate that these precious national emblems be discarded in particular ways. For example, after being flown for 6 to 12 months, UN flags are considered unfit for display and are carefully cut up and the pieces burned.

One would-be vexillologist has theorized that the purpose of such ethics is to associate with the flag "a sense of everlastingness, of integrity and endurance under even the most trying circumstances."

Since September 1980, the UN Postal Administration has honored the flags of Member States with a series of impressive postage stamps.

Flags are also honored with a new look when the ideologies or values of nations change. In December 1989, for example, Romania removed the Communist crest - a garland of wheat surmounted with a red star and enclosing symbols of socialist industry - from the center of its blue-yellow-red national flag. And for a while, during its political transition, Romanians flew a flag with a hole where those symbols used to be.

By reflecting such transformations, in additions to both the diversity and commonalities among nations, national flags have become high-flying mirrors of history.

David Kendall, 25 November 1996

Order of Flags at U.N. Headquarters

The UN Chronicle, Dec. 1992 article indicates:
"Nations are assigned a flag pole, in English alphabetical order, north to south."
David Kendall, 7 October 2002

According to, "Along First Avenue one can see the colourful display of flags of the Member States. Placed in English alphabetical order, the first flag at the level of 48th Street is Afghanistan, and the last one, by 42nd Street, is Zimbabwe."
Joe McMillan, 7 October 2002

It has been noted that new flags are added to the display among the "R"s.  The UN Headquarters campus, as it's called, is long- it runs from 48th to 42nd Street, and may soon extend one more block to the south- and narrow- it goes from First Avenue to the East River. The buildings, however, are all at the southern end, only starting at 45th Street, and concentrated even further south. The main visitors' gate is around 45th, and the main official gate (for cars) even further south.

Now, the flags start at the northern end, and run almost to the southern end. Many (in the north) don't even have UN buildings behind them, and those at the very southern end are almost lost among trees and walls. So if you want a flag to be photographed at a nice spot, with a clear view of the flag, a nice backdrop of UN buildings, and convenient to building entrances where you can have a ceremony, you go to- you guessed it- the "R"s.
Nathan Lamm, 7 October 2002

Sizes of Flags at U.N. Headquarters

As noted above from the UN Chronicle article, "To promote a unified look, all national flags for outdoor display at the UN are 4 by 6 feet, while flags used for indoor ceremonies are 3 by 5 feet."  If I remember correctly, I think the hoist side of the Swiss flag was slightly longer than with the other flags, so that the total area of the Swiss flag would have been roughly equal to the area of any regular-sized flag. In any case, it looked well-proportioned, leading me to speculate that
perhaps this was not a temporary arrangement.
Thorsten, 24 March 2003

When Switzerland joined the UNO in 2002 an agreement was reached that the flag would indeed be square.  Only the Swiss and Nepali flags are not "UN standard" dimensions.

From direct observation, I'm 99% sure (there was only an intermittent wind and tress in the way) that the Swiss flag is rectangular, 2:3, same as all the others, except Nepal. Nepal is not rectangular, of course, but the points are extremely long. If I had to guess, I'd say that Nepal is, overall, 2:3 (or more).
Nathan Lamm, 30 June 2006

Honour Flag

[Honour Flag] by Rick Wyatt, 31 May 1999

The Honor Flag was an unofficial flag symbolizing the United Nations and related efforts towards world peace, security, and freedom. It was known as the Honor Flag, U.N. Honor Flag, and (1942-1945) the Four Freedoms Flag; to be flown subordinate to any national flag. Optionally the red bars were green or blue.
Effective Dates: 13 June 1943 - circa 1948
Source: Flag Research Center, 1995/10
Thank you Dr. Smith
Rick Wyatt, 31 May 1999

UN Flag, 1945

[UN 1945 Flag] by António Martins, 10 October 1999

In 'DTV-Lexikon politischer Symbole', 1970, by Arnold Rabbow there is a lengthy expose' about the UNO-flag.

It was first presented in a slightly different form from the present one at the Organisation Conference in San Francisco in April 1945, where it was distributed among delegates and the press. In 1946 a UNO-committee got the task of making a definite design, which was presented 2 Dec. 1946 and adopted by the plenary session of the UNO on 7 Dec. 1946. The earlier version had the globe 90 degrees turned eastward compared with the present flag. The change was made, according to press statements, to take North America from the center of the emblem. In German (in case I mistranslated): 'In der frühere Fassung des Symbols war der Globus gegenüber der jetzt gültigen Darstellung um 90 Grad nach Westen gedreht.'

In a white drawing on a light blue field the globe appeared on the flag, which was adopted 20 October 1947 by the plenary session of the UNO.
Jarig Bakker, 10 October 1999

UN Flag at Sea

The UN is not a country, it is merely an international organisation. Only country flags can be flown as ensigns and used as nationality markings. Perhaps the UN flag could be used as a jack on a ship in UN service, but it is more likely it would be used at a yardarm or so, as a sign for the ship's current mission.

Elias Granqvist, 4 February 2002

Further to the discussion about the use of the UN flag at sea, while searching for material on "transitional authority" I came across this picture captioned "A United Nations patrol boat with a naval observer plies the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh (UN Photo# 197299C)" on the website of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

The photo shows a small white patrol boat with the letters UN in black on the side (as well as the smaller inscription "Peace in Cambodia" and the UN flag flying from the mast. The stern is not visible to be able to see if a national flag is also flying there, but it would not be unusual for a naval or coast guard boat to have its ensign at the place where the UN flag is displayed on 
this boat.

Joe McMillan, 6 February 2002

Peace Flag Stamp

[Peace Flag Stamp] by António Martins-Tuvalkin, 9 February 2006

Not a real flag, but a virtual flag which is depicted on a UN stamp at the opening of the Olympics at

Some background:
THE UN CYBERSCHOOLBUS, in co-operation with the UN Postal Administration and the International Olympic Committee, is pleased to announce the winners of the Peace Flag Project! Students from around the world submitted their vision of a world peace flag. One entry was selected by the judging committee to become an official UN Stamp to represent the International Day of Peace.

The winner was Mateja Prunk, 12 years old, Slovenia, whose flag at  represents:

The sun and the earth are intertwined, they do not function one without the other. The sun represents optimism and positive energy.
Phil Nelson, 29 July 2000

UNO Web Cam

The United Nations website has a webcam at New York headquarters. Many national flags and the UN flag shown. Now and then the camera seems to be moved somewhat. So get your glasses and have a look.

See also for the gift shop with their famous flag poster (check 14: flags).
Gerard van der Vaart
, 2 May 2001