How Many Countries are There in the World?

The question “how many countries are in the world?” seems to be quite simple. But the reality is it is far more complicated than it seems to be, because of political, socio-economic, and geographical complexities. The number of countries can vary greatly depending on the source, with no global consensus on the whole. The country is the word used for a place that is considered to be an independent and sovereign county. The controversy arises on the question: Which places count as independent and sovereign countries? According to the Montevideo Convention 1933 on the rights and responsibilities of countries presented four key characteristics for statehood. These four characteristics include a permanent population, a self-governing independent government, well-defined territory, and the capacity of the country to have diplomatic relations with other countries. 

195 Countries Recognized by the United Nations

It is also important that the state is recognized as an independent country by the United States, otherwise, every second Island will declare itself as a country. According to the United Nations, there are 195 countries, out of which 193 countries are United Nations’ members while 2 countries, Palestine and Holy See, are non-member permanent observers. The two states can take part in all UN activities except casting a vote in the General Assembly.

These countries mostly recognize each other as independent sovereign countries, and they are the states mostly found on the world map and countries list. Almost every state known to you is a United Nations member, or one of the two United Nations observer states, Palestine and the Holy See.

But the figure does not include the two self-governing territories, Taiwan and Kosovo, which are recognized as two independent countries, although are not fully accepted by the United Nations because of its special veto power. Taiwan is acknowledged in particular for having abundant economic resources.

But it is not recognized as a sovereign state by the United Nations because China considers Taiwan as a part of its territory, the same is the case with Serbia and Kosovo. Both cases are examples of political factors involved in recognizing a nation as an independent state, especially in cases when the territory is a disputed area as in the case of Palestine.

The Complicated Cases

  • It should be noted that there are some well-established states which have not been members of the United Nations since the beginning, further complicating the UN figures. Switzerland, for example, became a member of the UN in 2002, but its status as an independent state argued long before the date.Therefore, it may be worthwhile to look at other international institutions for collecting data, for instance, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization, etc.
  • If you observe the map of the world, it would be easy to identify certain regions of the globe which seem to be countries instead. For instance, there is a large island named Greenland, between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans which appears to be a country.However, it is not a member country of the United Nations and is controlled by Denmark, which is a relatively smaller European country thousands of miles away, although Greenland manages and governs most of its local activities and domestic affairs.
  • Even a country like the United Kingdom, which is considered to be the major economic player of the world and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, also known as veto power, is a conflicted country.The name the United Kingdom is only a collective name given to the four individual countries of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Each country has its own complex political history with England and territorial conflicts that even continue today.
  • In addition to it, there are 39 regions that are regarded as Dependent Territories, these are the regions that lack political independence and are governed by controlling states remotely. These territories include Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Ross Dependency, Bouvet Island, Peter I Island,Queen Maud Land,Bailiwick of Guernsey,  Bailiwick of Jersey, Isle of Man, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha,

    Turks and Caicos Islands, Akrotiri and Dhekelia,British Indian Ocean Territory, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory, Guam,  Northern Mariana Islands,  Puerto Rico,  United States Virgin Islands,  American Samoa,  Baker Island,

    Howland Island,  Jarvis Island,  Johnston Atoll,  Kingman Reef,  Midway Atoll,  Navassa Island,  Wake Atoll,  Bajo Nuevo Bank,  Serranilla Bank.

The discussion above proves that it is not an easy and simple task to determine the exact and accurate number of the countries in the world. The ever-changing nature of global politics further adds to the complexity of the question, as the issues of sovereignty are not likely to be resolved completely because the meaning of nationhood is constantly being redefined.

Partially Recognized States

Other than the above-mentioned countries, there are some other grey-area states, who are not members of the United Nations but are recognized by at least one of its members. This is known as diplomatic recognition in official terms. The main reason because of which these countries are not officially accepted by the United Nations is because of Northern Cyprus,  Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.

All these territories are claimed by other states but are not completely governed by them. The number of United Nations members who recognize them as independent countries varies from Northern Cyprus is recognized by only one country, to Kosovo being recognized by 100 countries.

Few other sources also count Cook Islands and Niue as partially recognized states. Although these two territories have never declared independence from New Zealand, they are highly self-governing and sometimes act as independent states.

Taiwan

Taiwan along with its surrounding islands is self-governing and calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), while China is referred to as the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Even Taiwan ROC used to hold the Chinese eat at the United Nations until the 1970s, and therefore most of the country considered the ROC as the only legitimate government of China.

However, in 1971 ROC was replaced by PRC by the United Nations. Since 2019, because of the diplomatic pressure and dominance of China over world politics, only 15 member countries of the United Nations along with one UN observer, the Vatican City, recognize Taiwan as a country.

In the current global scenario, the Taiwan government has no intention of controlling all of China but rather wants to be recognized as an independent nation in its own right. The geopolitical situation of Taiwan is complex because mainland China claims Taiwan to be an inseparable part of it.

As it turns out, China is cutting down ties with the states having diplomatic relations with Taiwan. As a result of this pressure, the number of countries recognizing Taiwan is declining with each year.

Western Sahara

Western Sarah, which is a  former Spanish colony, is a disputed region claimed by the Kingdom of Morocco and Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Libertarian of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro), an Algerian based independence movement.

The dispute started from an insurgency by the Polisario Front against Spanish colonial subjugation in 1973 and escalated as a result of the Morocco-Western Sahara war from 1975 to 1991 leading towards the withdrawal of Spanish forces from Western Sahara under the Madrid Accords.

Ten African countries started to build diplomatic relations with Western Sahara by the end of 2019 under the Rabat mission. The country is being supported by a number of states all over the world including Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Belize, Libya, Iran, Guatemala, and Jamaica.

Kosovo

Due to the international pressure from Russia and Serbia. In 2008, Kosovo declared itself independent from Serbia. However, 15 states cut off their diplomatic ties with Kosovo because of the pressure from Serbia.

The countries that have withdrawn their recognition include Burundi, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and Suriname, etc. In contemporary global politics, 98 out of 193 member countries of the United Nations recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state.

Abkhazia and Ossetia

The two territories, Abkhazia and Ossetia are disputed lands in the Caucasus Region. As a result of the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, they both were separated from Georgia. These regions have been recognized as independent sovereign countries by Russia, Syria, Nicaragua, Syria, Nauru, Venezuela, and Vanuatu (only recognize Abkhazia). 

Northern Cyprus 

The region of Northern Cyprus is recognized by Turkey alone. Turkey at this time is having its embassy in North Nicosia while Northern Cyprus is having an embassy in Ankara. The northern part of the island has been under the control of Turkey since 1974, a failed coup to annex the Island into the territory of Greece.

Self Declared Countries

The six partially recognized states are not the only complicating entities that have full autonomy and self-governance. Other than these six states, there are at least 3 more self-declared states operating independently of the states that claim them.

These, as well as the partially recognized countries, are mostly referred to as “de facto” sovereign countries- a Latin word used to describe their state, that they are truly independent countries, even if not in writing.

The three most commonly considered de facto independent states in spite of United Nations zero recognition are Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), Transnistria, and Somaliland. Since 2014, new territories are contending for the same purpose, the Donetsk Republic and the Lugansk Republic.

These two self-declared nations are still not as well organized and established as the others mentioned above, but now they have remained for almost seven years, and are often placed on the list of de facto states.

Major Global Players

Both the United States and the United Kingdom are the oldest major players of global politics. These are the countries that ruled almost all parts of the world for centuries. A number of states got independence from them and emerged as independent states on the map of the world in the post-colonial era.

Although in the contemporary global setting, China is also dominating world politics and has emerged as the fastest growing economy and developing country, China is new to global politics and has not colonized a major part of the world in the past.

Therefore, the two most dominating powers that left their footprints on the culture of almost every country of the world are the United States and the United Kingdom.

United States 

The United States of America is both a very new nation and also a very old nation. About 30,000 years ago, the first Asian hunters and nomadic settlers arrived in North America; however, the United States of America was not established until 1776 with the Declaration of Independence.

The history of the US is the history of the different peoples that make up the United States of America. In 1492 when the first Europeans arrived, millions of people from all over the world came to the United States and found their new homes.

The name “America” is frequently used to refer to the United States of America, however, till the political formation of the USA after the Revolutionary War, this identification mentioned South America only. e Northeast is the most populous area. Its main urbanization corridor is called the national “metropolis”.

It is the fourth-largest country in the world, with an area of 9,529,107 square kilometers, with fifty states and a federal district, the capital of Washington, DC. Its 48 neighboring states are located in central North America.

The United States is the union of 50 independent states. It is the third-largest country in the world, with almost the third-largest population. The country is located in North America, to the west, it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the official name of a sovereign country ruled by the London Parliament. The term “United Kingdom” usually includes Northern Ireland; the term “United Kingdom” refers to the Island of Great Britain and its subordinates England, Wales, and Scotland, but doesn’t include Northern Ireland.

Any British citizen can be called a Briton. The land area of the United Kingdom is 89,000 square miles plus another 5,400 square miles in Northern Ireland, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the Western world.

The population is about fifty-five million: forty-six million in England, five million in Scotland, 2.five million in Wales, and 1.five million in Northern Ireland. With immigrants within the British Isles, as well as immigrants from Europe and abroad, the country’s cultural diversity has increased. Ireland was incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1920. 

The Future

Many researchers and analysts believe that there are chances of the emergence of more independent states in the future. For instance, the case of east and west Libya. This is because since the government of Qaddafi is overthrown, Libya is in constant turmoil, as the militants and extremists there fight for power and control and different governments are trying to take over.

With the financial center based in Barcelona, ​​Spain, Catalonia is the central financial center of the country. The Catalans are striving to have a separate independent state for years, despite the fact that many nations oppose this separation. A part of Somalia called Somali land considers itself as an independent sovereign state that has its own government, military, currency, and finances.

It has self-proclaimed independence from Somalia and has formed informal ties and diplomatic relations with other states of the world. However, formal recognition from the rest of the world is not yet achieved. 

Resources

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