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 site 194 countries based on the 193 that belong to the United Nations (UN) plus the Holy See (Vatican), which is a non-member observer state. These 194 countries have full international recogonization as soveriegn states by other United Nation members.
Many sources such as worldometers state 195 countries, 193 UN members plus the two non member states but in that count they include the State of Palestine which is only recognized in 138 of the 193 United Nation member states and countires like the United States and Canada do not recognize it.
The United States offically recogonizes 195 countries as well, it has a simillar list of countries but instead of recognizing the State of Palestine it actually recognizes Kosovo. Only 97 out of the 193 United Nation member states recognize Kosovo. In particular Spain is one of the biggest opponets due to its oppostion to the Basque and Catalan indpendence movements within its own country.
Sources do not always agree on the total number of countries in the world. Looking at worldpopulationreview, this site claims 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 with the passage of 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 from 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.
Breaking Down the Chart
Running alphabetically from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the list of 195 countries provides some interesting information, including 2020 populations, land areas, and densities for each country. The five most highly-population countries are:
- China 1,439,323,776 (18.5% of the worlds’ population lives here)
- India 1,380,004,385 (17.7%)
- United States 331,002,651 (4.2%)
- Indonesia 273,523,615 (3.51%)
- Pakistan 220,892,340 (2.83%)
Also notable is the fact that aside from the United States, the remaining four are all in the continent of Asia.
Looking at landmass, a different picture comes to light. Russia is by far the largest, at close to twice the total area of Canada. Canada and China are similar, followed by the United States, and then Brazil.
- Russia 17,098,242 (mi²)
- Canada 9,984,670
- China 9,706,961
- United States 9,372,610
- Brazil 8,515,767
Though Russia is the largest country, it is the ninth most densely populated; Canada has even more wide-open space, coming in as the 39th most densely populated.
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.
States With Full International Recognition
|Country||Population (2020)||Land Area (Km²)||Density (P/Km²)|
|Antigua and Barbuda||97,929||440||223|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||3,280,819||51,000||64|
|Central African Republic||4,829,767||622,980||8|
|Czechia (Czech Republic)||10,708,981||77,240||139|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||89,561,403||2,267,050||40|
|Eswatini (fmr. "Swaziland")||1,160,164||17,200||67|
|Myanmar (formerly Burma)||54,409,800||653,290||83|
|Papua New Guinea||8,947,024||452,860||20|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||53,199||260||205|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||110,940||390||284|
|Sao Tome and Principe||219,159||960||228|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1,399,488||5,130||273|
|United Arab Emirates||9,890,402||83,600||118|
|United States of America||331,002,651||9,147,420||36|
About the Author
Ellen Kershner is a South Jersey-based writer who contributes to WorldAtlas.com, 55places.com, Natural Awakenings Magazine, Spryte Communications, Advanta Advertising, and Premier Legal Marketing. Her work has also been published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ed Hitzel’s Restaurant Magazine, and the Burlington County NJ Trend newspaper group.
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