How Many Countries are in the World?
Defining a Country: What Constitutes a Nation-State?
Defining a country is not as straightforward as it may seem. While some may believe that a country is simply a geographical region with defined borders, others may argue that a country must have a distinct culture, language, and history to be considered a nation-state.
One commonly used definition of a country is the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, which defines a state as a political entity with a defined territory, a permanent population, a government, and the ability to enter into relations with other states.
However, this definition is not without its flaws. For example, it does not take into account the complex histories and identities of certain regions, such as Catalonia or Kurdistan, which may aspire to statehood but lack the recognition of the international community.
Furthermore, there are numerous examples of countries that have been recognized by some countries but not by others, such as Taiwan or Kosovo. Ultimately, the definition of a country remains a subject of debate and may vary depending on the context and perspective of the individual or group in question.
The United Nations: How Many Member States are There?
The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization established in 1945 with the goal of promoting international cooperation and maintaining international peace and security. As of April 2023, the UN has 193 member states, including almost all of the sovereign states in the world.
The process of becoming a UN member state involves submitting an application to the Secretary-General, who then forwards it to the Security Council for consideration. If the Security Council recommends the applicant for membership, the General Assembly must then approve the application with a two-thirds majority vote.
While most countries in the world are UN member states, there are some notable exceptions. The Holy See, also known as the Vatican City, is recognized as a sovereign state but is not a UN member due to its unique status as the seat of the Catholic Church. Additionally, Taiwan is not a member due to opposition from China, which claims Taiwan as a province.
Independent States: How Many Countries are Recognized by the International Community?
There is no universal agreement on how many countries there are in the world. However, according to the United Nations, there are 193 member states that are recognized by the international community as sovereign and independent countries.
In addition to the UN member states, there are several other countries that are recognized by at least some members of the international community. These include Kosovo, which has been recognized by over 100 countries but is not a UN member state due to opposition from Serbia and Russia, and Palestine, which has been recognized by over 130 countries but is not a UN member state due to opposition from the United States and Israel.
There are also several territories that are not recognized as independent countries but have varying degrees of autonomy and self-government. Examples include Puerto Rico, which is a US territory, and Greenland, which is an autonomous territory of Denmark.
Controversies and Disputes: Unrecognized States and Territorial Disputes
The issue of unrecognized states and territorial disputes is a complex and controversial one. Some regions may have aspirations for independence or may have declared independence, but lack the recognition of the international community.
Examples of such regions include Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared independence from Georgia in 2008 and are recognized by only a handful of countries, primarily Russia. Similarly, Transnistria is a breakaway region of Moldova that has declared independence but is only recognized by a few countries, including Russia.
Territorial disputes also play a role in the recognition of countries. For example, the Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan, is only recognized by a few countries due to opposition from China, which considers Taiwan a part of its territory. Similarly, there are ongoing territorial disputes in regions such as Kashmir and the South China Sea, which affect the recognition of the countries involved.
The issue of unrecognized states and territorial disputes is a complex one that requires careful consideration of historical, political, and cultural factors. The international community must navigate these issues carefully to ensure stability and promote peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Changing Borders: How Many Countries Have Emerged in Recent Years?
While the number of recognized countries in the world has remained relatively stable in recent years, there have been some significant changes in the political landscape due to the emergence of new countries.
One example is South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of conflict. Another is Timor-Leste, which gained independence from Indonesia in 2002 after a referendum.
In addition to these new countries, there have also been changes in the status of existing territories. For example, Scotland held a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom in 2014, although the referendum ultimately failed. Similarly, Catalonia has faced controversy over its aspirations for independence from Spain.
While the emergence of new countries can bring opportunities for self-determination and improved governance, it can also lead to challenges such as territorial disputes and political instability. As such, it is important for the international community to approach these issues with careful consideration and diplomacy.