How Many Countries Are There?
The Definition of a Country
Before delving into how many countries there are in the world, it’s important to understand what exactly constitutes a country. While there is no universal definition, there are a few key characteristics that most countries share.
First and foremost, a country is typically a sovereign state, meaning it has its own independent government and is not subject to external control. Additionally, countries have defined borders that separate them from other nations. These borders can be physical, such as a natural barrier like a river, or they can be established by agreement between neighboring countries.
Countries also have a population of people who are considered citizens or residents of that country. They typically have their own unique culture, language, and history, which helps distinguish them from other nations. Finally, countries are recognized as such by other nations and international organizations, which helps them establish diplomatic relations and engage in global affairs.
The Role of the United Nations
The United Nations (UN) is an international organization that plays a crucial role in determining how many countries there are in the world. The UN was established in 1945 with the goal of promoting peace, security, and cooperation among nations.
One of the key functions of the UN is to maintain a list of member states, which includes all countries that have been recognized by the organization. As of 2021, there are 193 member states in the UN, which represents the vast majority of countries in the world.
The UN also has a process for admitting new member states. When a territory seeks to become an independent country, it can apply for membership in the UN. The application is then reviewed by the Security Council, which makes a recommendation to the General Assembly. If the General Assembly approves the application, the territory becomes a member state.
However, it’s worth noting that not all countries in the world are members of the UN. Some countries, like Taiwan, are not recognized by the organization due to political reasons. Others, like Kosovo, are not members because their sovereignty is disputed by other nations.
Different Methods of Counting Countries
There are several different methods that can be used to count how many countries there are in the world, and each method can yield slightly different results.
One common method is to count the number of member states in the United Nations. As previously mentioned, there are currently 193 member states in the UN, which is often considered the most widely accepted count of the number of countries in the world.
Another method is to count the number of sovereign states, which are countries that have complete control over their own affairs and are not subject to external control. This count can be more subjective, as it may depend on how one defines “complete control” and what constitutes external control.
A third method is to count the number of countries that are recognized by the international community. This count can be more fluid, as different countries may recognize different nations at different times. For example, some countries do not recognize Kosovo as an independent state, while others do.
Ultimately, the exact number of countries in the world may depend on which method is used and who is doing the counting. However, most counts tend to fall within the range of 190-195 countries.
Countries that are not Internationally Recognized
While the United Nations and other international organizations play a significant role in determining how many countries there are in the world, not all countries are recognized by the international community.
Some territories may claim to be independent countries, but are not recognized by other nations due to political or territorial disputes. For example, Taiwan is a self-governing territory that claims to be an independent country, but it is not recognized by China or several other countries.
Other territories may be recognized by some countries but not others. For example, Palestine is recognized as a sovereign state by over 130 countries, but it is not a member of the United Nations and is not recognized by several other countries, including Israel and the United States.
In some cases, territories may be in a state of limbo, where their sovereignty is disputed by multiple countries. For example, the region of Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan, and its status as a sovereign state is still under debate.
Overall, the number of internationally unrecognized countries can fluctuate over time as political situations change and diplomatic relations evolve.
Changes in the Number of Countries Over Time
The number of countries in the world has not always remained constant, as there have been several changes in the political landscape over time.
For example, prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, there were 15 republics that made up the USSR. When the Soviet Union dissolved, these republics became independent countries, increasing the total number of countries in the world.
Similarly, the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s resulted in the creation of several new countries, including Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On the other hand, some countries have merged or dissolved over time. For example, in 1990, East and West Germany were reunited into a single country, reducing the total number of countries in the world by one.
Other changes in the number of countries can occur due to the recognition of new territories as independent states, or the merger of existing countries into larger political entities.
Overall, the number of countries in the world can be fluid, and may change over time due to a variety of political and social factors.