The United Nations General Assembly kicks off this week, with diplomats and heads of government from 193 member states and two observer states descending upon UN headquarters in New York.
But despite the UN’s best intentions, there are a number of states that will not be represented at the UN this year. Unlike non-voting observers like the Holy See and the State of Palestine, the following nations will not be at the UN in any officially recognised capacity.
Despite these would-be states not having a voice at the UN, these states often punch above their weight and can play a major role in international affairs.
The Republic of China, also known as Taiwan, is recognised by 21 UN member states and the Vatican as the official government of China. It is the successor of the constitutional government founded in China in 1912 that was driven out of the mainland by Mao and the communists.
Both China and Taiwan claim to be the official government of the entirety of China, including the mainland and the island of Taiwan. China views Taiwan as a renegade province that must be brought into fold, perhaps through military force.
Until 1971, the Republic of China was recognised in the UN as the official government of China, and held one of the five permanent spots on its powerful Security Council. However, in 1971 the UN expelled the Republic of Taiwan and gave its seat, as well as its membership in all intergovernmental organisations, to the People's Republic of China.
Located along a dry stretch of the Red Sea is the Republic of Somaliland, a self-declared independent state that is recognised as a special autonomous region within the rest of Somalia. The Republic of Somaliland, a former British possession, was independent from June 26, 1960 until July 1, 1960 when it united with the formerly-Italian colonized parts of Somalia to form the Somali Republic.
Somaliland came to regret the union, especially as the country disintegrated in the late 80s and early 90s. After Somalia's central government collapsed in 1991, Somaliland held a referendum on becoming an independent state and declared independence shortly afterwards.
Although the Republic of Somaliland has the trappings of statehood -- elections, a recognised government, and rule of law -- no nation recognises the republic as independent for fear of threatening Somalia's ever-fragile political order. The neighbouring nations of Djibouti and Ethiopia do allow citizens from Somaliland to cross borders with a Somaliland passport, however.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) is a breakaway republic in the South Caucasus. NKR is recognised as part of Azerbaijan by the United Nations, and comprises about a fifth of that country's territory. However, the region is predominantly ethnically Armenian and the NKR receives support from Armenia.
Nagorno-Karabakh has become a frozen conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan with little progress being made in settling the issue since six years of hostilities ended in 1994. In August, the Azeri president went on an incredible Twitter rant in which he came close to declaring war on Armenia over the region.
The NKR is recognised by three other Russian-supported breakaway republics in the former Soviet Union -- the Republic of Abkhazia, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, and the Republic of South Ossetia.
The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, also known as Transnistria, is a multi-ethnic breakaway region of Moldova on the Ukrainian border.
Transnistria broke away from Moldova after the fall of the Soviet Union, leading to a brief armed conflict. Today, the region houses Russian 'peacekeepers,' although Russia does not actually recognise Transnistria as an independent state. In April, Transnistria announced its desire to hold a Crimea-style referendum in an effort to join Russia, with which the Republic does not share a border.
The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic is only recognised by the Republic of Abkhazia, the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Republic of South Ossetia.
The Luhansk People's Republic is one of the two republics that Russian-backed separatists have claimed in eastern Ukraine. The separatists held a referendum on May 11 that, predictably, led to the region voting to break away from Ukraine and form an independent state.
Although Russia has not recognised the Luhansk People's Republic as an independent state, the Republic has been propped up through Russian military supplies, logistics, and personnel. On May 24, 2014, the Lugansk People's Republic entered into a confederacy with the other breakaway Ukrainian region, the Donetsk People's Republic, to create the Federal State of Novorossiya.
The Donetsk People's Republic is the other of two republics that Russian-backed separatists have created in eastern Ukraine. The separatists held a referendum on May 11 that, predictably, led to the region voting to break away from Ukraine and form an independent state.
On May 24, 2014, the Luhansk People's Republic entered into a confederacy with the other breakaway Ukrainian region, the Donetsk People's Republic, to create the Federal State of Novorossiya.
The Republic of Abkhazia is wedged between Georgia and Russia, in the Caucusus, and sits on the Black Sea. Although Georgia maintains the claim that Abkhazia is part of its sovereign territory, Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru recognise the republic as independent.
Abkhazia broke away from Georgia after the 1992-1993 War in Abkhazia. Following the war, a UN monitoring force and a Commonwealth of Independent States peacekeeping operation was tasked with maintaining the peace while negotiations could be held between Abkhazia and Georgia.
The Republic of South Ossetia mirrors the situation of the Republic of Abkhazia. South Ossetia is recognised as sovereign territory by Georgia, but has broken away to form an independent state with Russian support.
Georgia fought an unsuccessful war against South Ossetia from 1991 to 1992, after which the Republic hosted a peacekeeping operation organised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In 2004 and 2008, Georgia and South Ossetia fought two further conflicts. The 2008 war led the way to a the Russian invasion of parts of Georgia proper, after which Russia formally recognised the independence of South Ossetia. In response, Georgia passed a resolution declaring that Russia was occupying the breakaway region.
Despite claims from Serbia that Kosovo is an integral part of its sovereign territory, the Republic of Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Although the republic is recognised by 108 UN members and Taiwan -- including by the United States -- it does not have official representation within the UN.
Kosovo has been deeply divided by ethnic violence between its Albanian and Serbian populations. In 1999 NATO intervened after Serbia invaded an increasingly restive Kosovo, forcing its army to withdraw from the province and establishing the region as a UN protectorate.
Since voting for independence, only 5 EU members have not recognised the republic -- Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain.
After a brief attempt at power sharing between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, the government fell apart and Turkish soldiers invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974 under the pretext of protecting Turkish Cypriots from persecution. Northern Cyprus declared its independence in 1983.
Cyprus remains divided between the southern Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which has only been recognised by Turkey. The rest of the international community considers Northern Cyprus to be a Turkish-occupied territory, and the Turkish Army maintains a large force on the island.
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) claims sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara, which had been annexed by Morocco following Spain's withdrawal from the area in 1975.
The SADR declared independence in 1976, and 84 UN member states along with South Ossetia have recognised the republic at some point. However, 39 of these states have withdrawn their recognition of the state, mostly due to political and economic pressure from Morocco.
SADR's status as a member of the African Union prompted Morocco's withdrawal from the organisation.
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