How many countries are there in the world? A simple question and yet far from easy to really get the answer these days. As we speak another country is probably being born and there is a republic somewhere that is having its life-support turned off to allow it to pass away without anybody even noticing. One dies and there are endless countries that are born these days it would seem.
We think we know everything about the planet on which we live and yet counting just the number of countries turns out to be an annual and arduous task. The number of countries on the map changes year in and year out, doesn’t it? There are 196 countries in 2015 that are on the world map and that means countries that are officially recognized. But depending on how you define a country the number can vary. Are there countries that nobody wants to recognize at all?
United Nations Members
There’re 195 countries that are considered to be sovereign states according to the United Nations, which means the country, nation or state where the borders are officially recognized and there is a government that is independent. That means that we can take into the count every country that is a member of the United Nations (193) and the two observer states (The Vatican City and Palestine), making a total of 195 countries. The United Nations officially recognized Palestine as an observer state in 2012. South Sudan was the last country to be added to the list of member states of the UN in 2011.
But, if we do the counting in a different way, then we end up with 201 states which have complete recognition or at least partial recognition. Whereas the 193 countries above and the two observers all officially recognize the existence of each other for the most part, there are some states that are recognized by very few. The use of Diplomatic Recognition means that at least one country recognizes the existence of a state, but they are disputed territories and the source of controversy. The six states that have partial recognition are:
· Western Sahara
· South Ossetia
· Northern Cyprus
These are all disputed territories and claimed (although not governed or controlled) by other countries. Northern Cyprus is only recognized officially by one country. Kosovo is recognized by 100 different United-Nations states.
De Facto Sovereign States
The number of countries will even rise to between 204 and 207 if we take into consideration de facto sovereign states. There are at least three other states that are breakaway states that nobody recognizes at all except the government of the state that declared itself to be independent. These are known as de facto sovereign states meaning that they are not independent or states at all on paper and for official purposes, but they are ‘in actual fact’. Amongst the de facto sovereign states that are usually agreed upon there are: Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria and Somaliland. There are also (since 2014) the Islamic State, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. However, the last three that have been added to the list of de facto states are much disputed also since they are in war zones and there is nothing but limited government structures that are in control.
Micronations are often quite small but they sometimes date back to the 19th century and they can even have symbols or an identity, with territorial claims and government institutions, but they are unrecognized. Examples include:
· Freetown Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark
· Kingdom of Elleore (1944) on the Danish Island of Zealand
· Grand Duchy of Flandrensis, Belgium, caliming territories in Antartica (114 citizens)
· Republic of Jamtland, Sweden
· Republic of Molossia (1977), Nevada, USA with Kevin Baugh as President.
Countries that Don’t Fully Exist
But even the countries that are recognized by the UN and which the UN has granted status to as a partially-recognized state are sometimes recognized by the full members of the United Nations by just a few percent. Take these examples and see just how many countries recognize their existence.
This country is now recognized as an observer but the US and Israel both opposed that recognition. Only 68% of the countries that are sovereign member states of the United Nations have recognized the existence of the state of Palestine. Recognition would mean the need to control the borders and controlling borders would mean a problem for Israel as it would be declared an invader of the Palestinian territory.
Serbia claims that Kosovo is part of its territory. It’s a sorry state of affairs when somebody wants you and you don’t want to be part of their country and they keep on running after you like a love-sick teenager. Kosovo is only recognized by just over half of all the sovereign member states of the United Nations (53%).
8. Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
This territory declared its independence in 1976 and it encompasses the entire Western Sahara. But, it is only recognized by 26% of the United-Nations members. However the SADR only controls approximately 25% of the territory that it actually claims as part of its republic. It is the Moroccan government that controls the rest, which is considered as being the occupying force in the SADR.
Taiwan is only recognized by 22 UN members today and this is undeniably because of the influence of China in the world. This means just 11% of the UN recognizes this state as being an independent and sovereign state in the world. Taiwan is also known as the Republic of China.
6. Republic of South Ossetia
This territory declared its independence from Georgia in 1990. But, it is recognized by just a mere 3% of the United-Nations member countries today. Those countries are in turn not entirely recognized themselves. When you are small fry you need to stick together and help the other small fish out. Understandably, Russiais one of those countries that officially recognize the existence of this state and the others include Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, Tuvalu, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria, the last three being unrecognized themselves.
5. Republic of Abkhazia
This region declared independence also from Georgia in 1999 and it too is recognized by just 3% of the United Nations. The countries that recognize this state are: Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Transnistria. Again, as for South Ossetia, only the first four of these countries are fully recognized.
4. Republic of Northern Cyprus
The only country in the world to recognize this state is Turkey. The rest of the world considers that this territory is occupied by the Turkish state and has been since the invasion in 1974. This mens that it is one of the most unrecognized states to exist today in the orld, with just 0.5% of the UN providing official status of it.
This state is officially part of Moldova but it has greater independence than other states. It is recognized by absolutely no country in the world at the present time. It declared independence in 1990 and after the War of Transnistria in 1992 it has been governed by the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR).
2. Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
This country is officially a region of Azerbaijan and there are only three countries in the world that recognize it. The countries that recognize it are not legally recognized themselves which means that 0% of the United Nations actually officially recognizes the state as an entity.
Somaliland is only recognized as being a region of Somalia and not an independent state today still. There is no country in the world – recognized or not officially recognized – that has granted it status. This means that it is the most unrecognized country today on the planet.
We only care about what exists and remember that seeing is believing. But, is it important for the United Nations to agree for something to exist for it to actually happen? Does every state have to come to the agreement that the Islamic State exists for it to have an effect? Otherwise, why would the world be attempting to stem the control of the Islamic State in the Middle East? Of course the official recognition of whether a state exists is of little importance if not purely symbolic.
There are times anyhow, when some would prefer for a state to completely disappear; at least perhaps to see the actual set-up our states have taken on as their role model. Re-founding a new country? Who’s ready for that today?
Where would you like to set up your micronation state?