Proposal to reserve ISO 3166-1 code elements

Mark Davis mark.davis at
Wed Apr 12 16:42:04 CEST 2006

I absolutely agree that these code elements should be reserved by the 
ISO 3166 MA and never reused for different entities.


Doug Ewell wrote:
> This post deals with a proposal to classify 15 unassigned ISO 3166-1 
> code elements as "reserved."  Please don't dismiss this subject as 
> "off-topic" for ietf-languages until you have read the entire post.
> In a message to ietf-languages on April 3, I listed 15 formerly used 
> code elements from ISO 3166-1 that are classified not as 
> "transitionally reserved" or otherwise "reserved," but as 
> "unassigned."  These 15 code elements are summarized as follows:
> DD   German Democratic Republic (withdrawn 1990)
> YD   Yemen, People's Democratic Republic of (withdrawn 1990)
> 13 others:  BQ, CT, FQ, HV, JT, MI, NH, NQ, PC, PU, PZ, VD, WK 
> (withdrawn 1977 through 1986)
> Note that the code elements DD and YD, having been withdrawn after 
> 1988 -- "Date A" for purposes of the Language Subtag Registry -- are 
> included in the Registry as deprecated region subtags.
> Since then, I have had a chance to read an actual copy of ISO 3166-3, 
> which shows that the alpha-4 code elements in that standard represent 
> not only "formerly used names of countries" (Section 1) but also 
> formerly used code elements.
> Section 5.2 states that the ISO 3166-3 code list includes "... the 
> formerly used country names together with their obsolescent alpha-2 
> code elements, obsolescent alpha-3 code elements, obsolescent 
> numeric-3 code elements (where relevant), [and] the period (years) 
> during which these were valid...."
> This demonstrates that the 15 code elements in the list above, now 
> present as the first part of ISO 3166-3 code elements, were officially 
> assigned and valid in ISO 3166 and/or 3166-1 for a clearly defined 
> period of time.  Based on current practice within ISO 3166/MA -- see 
> TP, YU, and ZR in recent times -- these 15 code elements should be 
> classified as "transitionally reserved" to prevent, or at least 
> discourage, their reassignment to other country names.
> This issue affects the ietf-languages list because of the presence of 
> DD and YD.  If the MA were to assign either of these code elements to 
> a new country name, the code element could not be used in the Language 
> Subtag Registry because of its existing meaning.  According to Section 
> 3.4, item 10 of RFC 3066bis, it would be necessary to use the UN M.49 
> numeric code element as a subtag, something we in LTRU tried hard to 
> avoid doing.  Item 11 refers to the M.49 codes as "the value of last 
> resort in cases where ISO 3166 reassigns a deprecated value in the 
> registry," but clearly it is desirable to avoid this "last resort" 
> situation.
> A similar situation could potentially apply to other users of ISO 
> 3166-1, especially if they also depend on certain withdrawn code 
> elements to preserve stability, as we do.
> Debbie Garside and I have talked about this issue and agree that the 
> MA should be asked to reserve these code elements, especially DD and 
> YD, but we would like to get input (and hopefully support) from 
> ietf-languages first.  Please send any comments you may have to the 
> list, or to Debbie or me, in the next few days before we submit this 
> to the MA.  If you reply to the list, please try to keep the scope 
> focused on the impact on the Language Subtag Registry.
> -- 
> Doug Ewell
> Fullerton, California, USA
> -- 
> Debbie Garside
> Managing Director
> ICT Marketing Limited
> Corner House
> Barn Street
> Haverfordwest
> Pembrokeshire SA61 1BW
> Wales UK
> Tel: 0044 (0)1437 766441
> Web:
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