The second half of the twentieth century has been characterized in its opening years by the retreat of colonialism all over the world. Within a space of twenty years between 1945 and 1965, some fifty-seven countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, became politically independent. During the same period, the convention was established that as each country became politically independent it sought and was accorded membership of the United Nations. Thus, the size of the membership of the United Nations came to represent roughly the number of independent political entities in the world. Between 1945 when the organization was established by charter and 1965, membership rose from 51 to 118 nations. By 1971, the number had further risen to 132. Today, membership of the United Nations stands at 142 which is just sixteen short of the total number of territorial entities which presently cover the whole earth surface, apart from the sixty-five dependencies of various European powers which mostly comprise small islands, continental enclaves or portions of the desolate Antarctic continent.