The International Standardisation Organisation
(www.iso.ch) has introduced a
coding system which assigns each country one of three types
• a two-character code (for example, CA for Canada)
known as ISO-3166-Alpha-2;
• a three-character code (for example, CAN for Canada)
known as ISO-3166-Alpha-3; and
• a three-digit code (for example, 124 for Canada)
known as "ISO-3166 numerical code".
The Maintenance Agency for ISO 3166 is the German Standardisation
Organisation (Deutsches Institut für Normung; DIN). However,
the numeric codes are looked after by the United Nations
For more information, the NISO maintains
overview and list
of frequently asked questions.
A full list
of ISO-3166-Alpha-3 and numrical codes is available from the
United Nations Statistics Division web site.
Recently, the ISO-3166 has been developed further
to provide codes for geographic subdivisions of countries. These
codes are known as ISO-3166-2, while the original country codes are
refered to as ISO-3166-1. Furthermore, ISO-3166-3 is a list of
country codes that are no longer in use (for example, countries that
have split up such as Czechoslovakia, or countries that have
merged such as East Germany and West Germany). Please refer to
entry on ISO-3166 for further information.