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How Many Countries Are There in the World?

By Sharon Omondi January 19 2020

There are 195 countries in the world.
There are 195 countries in the world.

There are 195 countries in the world. Of these, 193 countries are members of the United Nations. Of the 195 countries, two nations, Holy See (Vatican) and the State of Palestine, are considered as UN observer states. The statehood of Kosovo and Taiwan is controversial. Otherwise, if they were to be included in the numbers of world nations, there would be 197 countries in the world.

How is a Country Defined?

A country is a political entity that maintains total sovereignty over its territory and people. Recognition of a country as an independent state is based upon four major components:

(1) The state must amass absolute power within its territory.

(2) The state must be inhabited by humans (population).

(3) The state must have land coupled with clearly marked geographical boundaries not contested by any other country.

(4) The state must be capable of enforcing its policies through a legitimate government.

The UN considers a country part of the United Nations membership by consent from the five Security Council namely China, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia. Additionally, the country should garner two-thirds of votes from the General Assembly.

Countries With Controversial Statehood

Four countries whose statehood is controversial are Kosovo, Taiwan, the State of Palestine, and Holy See. Kosovo is a member of both the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). 110 countries recognize its independence including the United States. However, Kosovo’s statehood is disputed because Serbia claims that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence was invalid.

Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, has its own constitution, armed forces, and elected president. The United Nations and 21 of its members recognize Taiwan’s independence. However, China does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country and instead claims its government is illegitimate.

Another controversial country is the State of Palestine which is a de jure sovereign state. It claims ownership of the West Bank and Gaza Strip which are also claimed by Israel. The Holy See, also known as the See of Rome, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church located within Vatican City. Given its position as a religious state, it has chosen to not become a member of the United Nations.

Countries Per Continent

The largest continent in the world by land area is Asia which is composed of 48 states. The 2nd largest continent by land area, Africa, consists of 54 countries. North America encompasses 23 countries. Europe consists of 44 countries. Oceania has 14 nations. Finally, South America has 12 countries.

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