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Reference resource produced by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with almanac-style information about the countries of the world
The World Factbook website as it appeared in December 2014
Because the Factbook is in the public domain, people are free under United States law to redistribute it or parts of it in any way that they like, without permission of the CIA. However, the CIA requests that it be cited when the Factbook is used. Copying the official seal of the CIA without permission is prohibited by U.S. federal law—specifically, the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 (50 U.S.C.§ 403m).
Frequency of updates and availability
Before November 2001 The World Factbook website was updated yearly; from 2004 to 2010 it was updated every two weeks; since 2010 it has been updated weekly. Generally, information currently available as of January 1 of the current year is used in preparing the Factbook.
Many Internet sites use information and images from the CIA World Factbook. Several publishers, including Grand River Books, Potomac Books (formerly known as Brassey's Inc.), and Skyhorse Publishing have re-published the Factbook in recent years.
Map of the world published by the CIA World Factbook in 2016
As of July 2011, The World Factbook comprises 267 entities, which can be divided into the following categories:
The CIA defines these as people "politically organized into a sovereign state with a definite territory." In this category, there are 195 entities.
Places set apart from the list of independent countries. Currently there are two: Taiwan and the European Union.
Dependencies and Areas of Special Sovereignty
Places affiliated with another country. They may be subcategorized by affiliated country:
Some entries on the World Factbook are known to be in line with the political views and agenda of the United States. The United States is behind both the excision of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritian territory and the forcible expulsion of the Chagossians from their lands to establish a military base on one of the island of the archipelago, namely Diego Garcia. The US does not recognise the sovereignty of Mauritius over the Chagos Archipelago and the archipelago is listed as the British Indian Ocean Territory on the CIA Website. The website further erroneously mentioned that the Chagos Archipelago is also claimed by the Seychelles, while officially 116 countries including the Seychelles against only 6 countries including the United States voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution dated 24 May 2019 which called upon the United Kingdom to withdraw its colonial administration from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally to enable Mauritius to complete the decolonization of its territory as rapidly as possible.
Northern Cyprus, which the U.S. considers part of the Republic of Cyprus, is not given a separate entry because "territorial occupations/annexations not recognized by the United States Government are not shown on U.S. Government maps."
The Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands, subjects of territorial disputes, have entries in the Factbook where they are not listed as the territory of any one nation. The disputed claims to the islands are discussed in the entries.
The U.S. does not recognize the renaming of Burma by its ruling military junta to Myanmar and thus keeps its entry for the country under the Burma name.
Republic of Macedonia
The Republic of Macedonia was entered as Macedonia, the name used in its first entry in the Factbook upon independence in 1992. In the 1994 edition, the name of the entry was changed to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as it is recognised by the United Nations (pending resolution of the Macedonia naming dispute). For the next decade, this was the name the nation was listed under. In the 2004 edition of the Factbook, the name of the entry was changed back to Macedonia, following a November 2004 U.S. decision to refer to the country using this name. On February 19, 2019, the entry was renamed to North Macedonia following the country's name change to the Republic of North Macedonia.
On December 16, 2004, the CIA added an entry for the European Union (EU) for the first time. The "What's New" section of the 2005 Factbook states: "The European Union continues to accrue more nation-like characteristics for itself and so a separate listing was deemed appropriate."
United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges and Iles Eparses
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) broke apart in 1991. The following year, it was replaced in the Factbook with entries for each of its former constituent republics. In doing this, the CIA listed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), proclaimed in 1992, as Serbia and Montenegro, as the U.S. did not recognize the union between the two republics. This was done in accordance with a May 21, 1992, decision by the U.S. not to recognize any of the former Yugoslav republics as successor states to the recently dissolved SFRY.
A map of Serbia and Montenegro from the 2000 edition of The World Factbook. Notice how the disclaimer is printed in the upper right hand corner. One can see how the capital cities of both republics are individually labeled on the map.
These views were made clear in a disclaimer printed in the Factbook: "Serbia and Montenegro have asserted the formation of a joint independent state, but this entity has not been recognized as a state by the United States." Montenegro and Serbia were treated separately in the Factbook data, as can be seen on the map. In October 2000, Slobodan Milo?evi? was forced out of office after a disputed election. This event led to democratic elections and U.S. diplomatic recognition. The 2001 edition of the Factbook thus referred to the state as Yugoslavia. On March 14, 2002, an agreement was signed to transform the FRY into a loose state union called Serbia and Montenegro; it took effect on February 4, 2003. The name of the Yugoslavia entity was altered in the Factbook the month after the change.
The Factbook is full of usually minor errors, inaccuracies, and out-of-date information, which are often repeated elsewhere due to the Factbooks widespread use as a reference.[dubious – discuss] For example, Albania was until recently, described in the Factbook as 70% Muslim, 20% Eastern Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholic, which was based on a survey conducted in 1939, before World War II; numerous surveys conducted since the fall of the Communist regime since 1990 have given quite different figures. Another example is Singapore, which the Factbook states has a total fertility rate of 0.78 children per woman, despite figures in Statistics Singapore which state that the rate has been about 1.2-1.3 children per woman for at least the past several years, and it is unclear when, or even whether, it ever dropped as low as 0.78. This low and inaccurate value then gets cited in news articles which state that Singapore has the world's lowest fertility, or at least use the figure for its shock value. Another serious problem is that the Factbook never cites its sources, making verification of the information it presents difficult if not impossible.
In June 2009, National Public Radio (NPR), relying on information obtained from the CIA World Factbook, put the number of Israeli Jews living in settlements in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem at 250,000. However, a better estimate, based on State Department and Israeli sources put the figure at about 500,000. NPR then issued a correction. Chuck Holmes, foreign editor for NPR Digital, said, "I'm surprised and displeased, and it makes me wonder what other information is out-of-date or incorrect in the CIA World Factbook."
Scholars have acknowledged that some entries in the Factbook are out of date.
^ abDirectorate of Intelligence (2011-07-12). "CIA - World Factbook". Retrieved . The World Factbook provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities.
^ abcDirectorate of Intelligence. "The World Factbook - Contributors and Copyright Information". Retrieved . The World Factbook is prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency for the use of US Government officials, and the style, format, coverage, and content are designed to meet their specific requirements. Information is provided by other public and private sources. The Factbook is in the public domain. Accordingly, it may be copied freely without permission of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
^ abc"CIA World Factbook 2006 Now Available" (Press release). Central Intelligence Agency. 2006-04-05. Retrieved . The World Factbook remains the CIA's most widely disseminated and most popular product, now averaging almost 6 million visits each month. In addition, tens of thousands of government, commercial, academic, and other Web sites link to or replicate the online version of the Factbook. * * * Included among the 271 geographic entries is one for the "World," which incorporates data and other information summarized where possible from the other 270 country listings.
^Directorate of Intelligence (2010-11-24). "World Factbook Updates - October 22, 2010". Retrieved . Since 2004, The World Factbook website has been updated on a bi-weekly schedule. Culminating a three-month trial effort, we are pleased to announce that the Factbook will now be updated on a weekly basis.
^Directorate of Intelligence (2008). CIA - The World Factbook 2008: Purchasing Information. Retrieved . The Government Printing Office has assumed production of The World Factbook print edition. The CIA has decided to focus Factbook resources exclusively on the World Wide Web online edition...
^Miller, Jill Young. "CIA puts data on the internet." Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel 12 December 1994.
^Directorate of Intelligence. "The World Factbook - Purchasing Information". Retrieved . Other users may obtain sales information about printed copies from the following: Superintendent of Documents...National Technical Information Service
^ abDirectorate of Intelligence. "The World Factbook - Notes and Definitions: Entities". Retrieved . "Independent state" refers to a people politically organized into a sovereign state with a definite territory. * * * There are a total of 266 separate geographic entities in The World Factbook that may be categorized as follows...
^ abDirectorate of Intelligence (2011-04-08). "World Factbook Updates - April 8, 2011". Archived from the original on April 9, 2011. Retrieved . The Indian Ocean island entity of Mayotte became an overseas department of France on 31 March. The change in status makes it an integral part of France and so its description is now included in the France country profile of The World Factbook. (Archived by WebCite at
^Directorate of Intelligence (2006-09-19). "The World Factbook - Burma". Archived from the original on October 6, 2010. Retrieved . since 1989 the military authorities in Burma have promoted the name Myanmar as a conventional name for their state; this decision was not approved by any sitting legislature in Burma, and the US Government did not adopt the name, which is a derivative of the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw
^Staff reporter (2004-11-04). "US snubs Greece over Macedonia". BBC News. Retrieved . Greece has protested strongly at a decision by the US to refer to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) simply as "Macedonia".
^For an example of a redirect, see what happens with the profile for Juan de Nova Island (mirror).
^Directorate of Intelligence (2007-07-19). "CIA - The World Factbook 2007: What's New". Retrieved . The five former entities of Bassas da India, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, and Tromelin Island, previously grouped as Iles Eparses (Scattered Islands), now constitute a district of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.
^Department of State (August 1999). "Serbia and Montenegro (08/99) (See Yugoslavia)". Retrieved . (Serbia and Montenegro have asserted the formation of a joint independent state, but this entity has not been recognized as a state by the United States.)
^Directorate of Intelligence (1999). "CIA - The World Factbook 1999 - Serbia and Montenegro". Archived from the original on 1999-11-09. Retrieved . Serbia and Montenegro have asserted the formation of a joint independent state, but this entity has not been formally recognized as a state by the US. The US view is that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) has dissolved and that none of the successor republics represents its continuation.
^Staff reporter (2002-03-14). "Yugoslav partners sign historic deal". BBC News. Retrieved . Serbia and Montenegro have signed an accord which will consign the name Yugoslavia to history and shelve any immediate plans for Montenegrin independence.
^Staff reporter (2003-02-04). "Yugoslavia consigned to history". BBC News. Retrieved . From now on it will be called just Serbia and Montenegro--the two remaining republics joined in a loose union.