Country codes in the RIPE Database serve a purely operational purpose. Nevertheless, questions can arise when defining which country code to use or what the code means. Let’s look into how country codes are maintained in the Database.
The RIPE Database
The RIPE Database is a public collection of information about who holds particular Internet Number Resources (also called whois records). These records allow network operators to contact each other to troubleshoot routing problems or for other operational needs. Most of the information in the Database is maintained by the resource holders themselves, including the inet(6)num object. However, resources managed by the RIPE NCC also have an associated organisation object, in which the country code attribute is maintained by the RIPE NCC based on the legal registration of the resource holder.
Country codes in inet(6)num objects
Inet(6)num objects state the contact information of resource holders, which includes an address and country code. Resource holders are responsible for maintaining the information in this object. What they choose to put here varies according to their needs: for instance, some will put the address of their headquarters, others the location where their resources are being used. Resource holders can update the country codes in their inet(6)num objects as needed, as the code used here does not need to reflect the legal registration of an organisation.
Country codes in organisation objects
Back in 2018 and 2019, during RIPE 77 and RIPE 78, the RIPE NCC presented about the lack of a clear definition for the country code attribute. The RIPE Database Working Group (DB-WG) took over the issue and started a discussion on how the Country Code attribute should be defined. After some months of discussion in the mailing list, the DB-WG Chairs announced that consensus was reached and this project was given the Numbered Work Item- 10 (NWI-10).1 The RIPE NCC implemented NWI-10 in several phases,2 concluding the process in December 2022 after having adjusted the country code of End Users to match with their sponsoring LIRs.3
NWI-10 permitted resource holders to continue maintaining their preferred country code in the inet(6)num object but added a country code attribute in the organisation object that was drawn from the organisation’s legal address. This new country code attribute was also reflected in the RIPE NCC's Extended Delegated Statistics, which list the date of delegation, the delegation status and an associated ISO-3166 country code for each Internet Number Resource assigned or allocated directly by the RIPE NCC.4 This was a purely administrative change and did not reflect any actual transfers of resources or changes in address.
The RIPE NCC only updates the registered legal address of a resource holder if we are provided with proper documentation for the change, which includes proof of establishment issued by a relevant national authority where the change in the legal address is apparent, along with approval by an authorised representative. This high bar for updating the legal address prevents sudden changes to the country code here without sufficient documentation and consent from the resource holder.
The RIPE NCC requires that the country codes in the RIPE Database be an officially assigned ISO 3166 code, as this is the internationally accepted standard.5
In some exceptional cases, there is no available country code to use. Looking to South East Europe, which has undergone significant changes to international borders in recent history, one instance is Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 but is not universally recognised. As a result, there is no ISO 3166 code for Kosovo. To address this, some community members have suggested allowing the use of unofficial country code XK for Kosovo in the RIPE Database.
Implementing an unofficial country code in the Database presents a number of problems; it requires deciding which country codes to accept as legitimate, which is beyond our mandate as a neutral Internet registry. It would also have an impact on the consistency of reporting on the data across with organisations that use the ISO 3166 standard. At the same time, without a country code, our members in Kosovo do not feel accurately represented. One way forward is for RIPE community members who want this new country code to push for it to be officially added to the ISO 3166 framework, so we could then offer it to our members in Kosovo.6 In the meantime, members in Kosovo can choose to register under the neighbouring ISO 3166 country code of their choice.
Areas under dispute
We have seen some concerns about updates to this country code in areas of conflict, as some have interpreted this to mean the RIPE NCC has a position on the national status of these territories. However, in these situations, we leave it up to resource holders to decide how to define their national status. In areas disputed by two countries, the RIPE NCC allows resource holders to show proof of establishment from whichever national authority they prefer or are able to produce official papers from.7 We follow the same process for self-proclaimed independent states but may also require extra documentation to determine proof of establishment, such as proof of identity for the authorised representative.
In all of these cases, the country code in the RIPE Database does not represent a RIPE NCC position on which country a particular territory belongs to. The RIPE NCC does not issue resources to countries. The resources are delegated to resource holders based on direct or indirect contractual agreements with the RIPE NCC. Our goal is simply to determine legitimate holdership of IP addresses based on official documentation and to maintain contact information that is necessary for network operations.
- Our Plan to Update Country Codes
- Operation Update RIPE Database
- NWI-10 Populating End User Organisation Country Attribute
- Impact of NWI-10 on Country Codes in Delegated Statistics
- For historical reasons, a small number of resources continue to have the code “EU” in place of an individual country code.
- RIPE NCC Executive Board 163rd Meeting Minutes
- Due Diligence for the Quality of the RIPE NCC Registration Data