There are 196 countries in the world, or rather that are recognized as sovereign states. As we shall see, there are many others that don’t make the list, and we will list reasons as to why.
Taiwan is not officially considered a country, even though it successfully met the requirements to be regarded as a nation on its own. It is in the list of 196, and its exclusion from the countries’ list is because many other countries (led by the U.S. and China) don’t recognize it as so. China considers Taiwan as another province in its vast geographical boundaries. This particular issues has been a thorn in the flesh of outside countries, because they have had to sever ties with Taiwan in order to maintain relations with China. However, this hasn’t stopped 100 or so other nations from maintaining unofficial relations with Taiwan.
The countries that are in the United Nations list of members is 192, and exclusions are The Vatican City, Kosovo, and Taiwan (it was actually a member of the UN Security Council until 1971 when it as replaced by the People’s Republic Of China).
The most recent nations to join the exclusive list include South Sudan (2011), Montenegro (2006), and Switzerland (2002). Before South Sudan, Kosovo was the newest nation, having split from Serbia in 2008. Montenegro also gained its independence from Serbia.
There are a total of 61 colonies/territories in the world today, and these are not recognized as official countries. These territories are under the control of Australia (6 colonies), Denmark (2), Netherlands (2), France (16), New Zealand (3), Norway (3), the United Kingdom (15), and the United States (14).
Of all the territories known today, there are 6 disputed ones (they are claimed by more than one country). These disputed lands are the Paracel Islands, Western Sahara, Antarctica, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Spratly Islands. Now you know why the Gaza Strip is on the news so much.
The list of world countries by their continents is as follows:
AFRICA (54 countries)
ASIA (44 countries)
EUROPE (47 countries)
NORTH AMERICA (23 countries)
OCEANIA (14 countries)
And finally, SOUTH AMERICA (12 countries)
For a country to be accepted into the United Nations General Assembly, the member state must pass the following criteria
i. It is a peace loving state that accepts the obligations contained in the United Nations Charter, and is able to carry them out.
ii. The Security Council should find no reason to bar its admission into the General Assembly, and such should be granted recommendation for admission.
The United Nations considers international recognition and lack of opposition from member states as critical to recognizing the sovereignty of a country. This makes it difficult for some countries that may be considered sovereign states not to be admitted as members of the UN.
Facts you didn’t know
· The Vatican City is the only sovereign nation that is recognized worldwide that is not a member of the United Nations.
· The world’s top 5 most populous nations are China (1.3 billion people), India (1.12 billion), the United States (300 million), Indonesia (234 million), and Brazil (190 million). Africa’s most populous nation is Nigeria (135 million).(source: U.S. Census Bureau, International Database)
· The UN’s Human Development Index- published annually- gives a picture of the countries that provide the best, and worst standards of living to their citizens. Most of the “livable countries”, those that provide better standards of living, were to be found in Europe, North America, and Oceania continents. The top 5 countries in the list are Norway, Iceland, Australia, Ireland, and Sweden.
· The least livable countries list, by comparison, was mainly comprised of African states. The top 5 in this list included Niger, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea Bissau.
· The gap between the rich and poor in the world’s nations is measured by per capita income. The number of poor people in a country and the standard of living is dependent on how the income is distributed across the nation’s citizens. Per capita income may be relatively equal for some countries, but the incidence of poverty is what sets countries apart. (source: see next fact)
· The top 5 countries with the biggest inequality between the rich and the poor are Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Swaziland, Brazil, and Nicaragua. (source: Human Development Report, 2006, United Nations)
· The top 10 tourist destinations in the world are France, the United States, China, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, and Mexico. (Source: World Tourism Organization).