There are 194 universally recognized countries (193 members of the UN plus the Vatican [Holy See]). Places like Palestine, Kosovo and Taiwan are partially recognized which increase the count.
The State of Palestine is often included but it is only recognized by 138 UN members.
Kosovo is also often included but is only recognized by 97 UN members.
If you were to ask ten people how many countries are in the world, you would probably hear ten different answers. Here at Worldatlas, we state 195 countries based on the 193 that belong to the United Nations (UN) plus the Holy See (Vatican) and the State of Palestine, which are non-member observer states. However, the State of Palestine, is only recognized by 138 of the 193 United Nations member states and countries like the United States, and Canada do not recognize it.
The United States officially recognizes 195 countries as well; but instead of recognizing the State of Palestine, it recognizes Kosovo. Only 97 out of the 193 United Nations member states recognize Kosovo. In particular, Spain is one of the biggest opponents due to its opposition to the Basque and Catalan independence movements within its own country.
Sources do not always agree on the total number of countries in the world. Other sources claim there are 197 countries. They count Holy See and Palestine as UN observers but also consider Taiwan and Kosovo to be self-governed territories that both have substantial economic resources of their own.
The latter fact is because Taiwan is considered as part of the Chinese territory; the same is correct for Kosovo being part of Serbia. With all the socio-economic, geographical, and political difficulties, this can all be subject to change over time.
Generally, the UN seems to be a reliable source for the total number of countries. For a country to be a part of this organization, a country must apply for membership, be assessed, and then be voted in. The country has to be approved by the five permanent member countries: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).
The constant flux of politics and globalization are continually redefining countries, so agreeing on a final count can be difficult. In addition to the reasons already described, here are some additional facts.
Switzerland did not join the UN until 2002 and was a sovereign state before they came on board.
The United Kingdom plays a substantial part on the global economic front and is a permanent UN Security Council member. Even so, the United Kingdom includes England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. All four have complicated political histories – including territorial disputes. These are ongoing to this very day.
Greenland, on its own, is not a UN member country and operates much of its domestic affairs. However, it is controlled by Denmark, which is thousands of miles away in Europe. Denmark is also a lot smaller than Greenland!
Niue and The Cook Islands are not UN member states. They are both in free association with New Zealand. New Zealand is "members of "several UN specialized agencies." They are recognized as "full treaty-making capacity."
Also, there are a total of 39 regions that are dependent on other territories: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Réunion, Macao, Western Sahara, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Mayotte, Channel Islands, Guam, Curaçao, Aruba, U.S. Virgin Islands, Isle of Man, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Northern Mariana Islands, Greenland, American Samoa, Faeroe Islands, Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos, Gibraltar, British Virgin Islands, Caribbean, Netherlands, Cook Islands, Anguilla Wallis & Futuna, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Helena, Saint Pierre & Miquelon, Montserrat, Falkland Islands, Niue, and Tokelau.
Some researchers believe that there could be even more countries in the future. One of these is East & West Libya. This is because Libya has often been in turmoil, because of extremists there fighting for control and different governments trying to take over since Gaddafi was overthrown. Based in Barcelona, Spain, Catalonia is the country's financial center. Catalans have wanted a separate state for many years, although many are opposed to separation.
Somaliland (part of Somalia) considers itself independent and has its own government, army, and currency. It had self-proclaimed independence and has informal ties with other countries. Formal recognition from the rest of the world is yet to come, though.
Nope, Scotland is not a country; it is part of the United Kingdom. Some Scotlanders want to keep things as is, but others want to split. A 2014 referendum vote for Scottish independence did not pass, and the vote for Brexit revealed that 62 percent wanted to remain with the European Union.