A Tally of the World's Countries and Territories

A Tally of the World's Countries and Territories

September 11, 2019

World Countries

How many countries are there?

It's the kind of question that geography buffs ask all the time, and there's a fairly simple answer.

193 United Nations Member States

If you only count UN Members, there are 193 countries.

195 Sovereign States According to the UN

If you include what the UN calls sovereign states, the number of countries increases by two; these UN Observer States being the Vatican City (or Holy See) and Palestine.

So, there you have it, 193 UN Members nations, plus two UN Observer States gives us our number of official countries: 195 states recognized by the UN.

201 States With at Least Partial Recognition

But wait, there are other states that share many characteristics with the 195 official countries but do not have status as official countries.

These places sometimes appear on a map or country lists with an asterisk. What's special about them? In some cases, it's a strong, unified desire for independence, in others, it may be geographical separation that effectively makes the place its own entity.

One distinction that gets a state recognized as almost a country is being officially acknowledged by at least one UN member. Often identified as disputed territories, the number of states with so called Partial Recognition is six:

Taiwan,Western Sahara, Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Northern Cyprus.

What all these states have in common is that they are claimed as parts of other countries, but those countries do not exercise any significant control over them.

204 De Facto Sovereign States

Then there's the de facto sovereign states, breakaway states with full self-governance—states that operate independently from the countries that claim them. There are currently three such places:

Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, and Somaliland.

206 Olympic Nations

If you're a fan of the Olympics and know how many nations will be competing in 2020, you may be scratching your head about how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) came up with 206 eligible states? The OIC does not always require that entrants be independent countries.

Some partially self-governed dependent territories and certain partially recognized states have been approved by the IOC. With 206 entrants, the extra participant states will include two partially recognized states; one special case, the Cook Islands; and nine dependent territories.

249 Country Codes in the ISO Standard List

There's one final country identification system that results in an even higher total number of "countries" than the OIC's list, and that's the ISO Standards list. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) created and maintains a comprehensive list of county codes. While including all countries recognized by the UN, the ISO roster also includes certain dependent territories separately from their parent countries, partially recognized states, and uninhabited territories.

When it's needed to represent every possible package destination on the globe, the list better be all-inclusive, so, ISO is justified in allowing a whopping 249 country codes to populate their official "countries" list.

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Seterra offers a map quiz, 220+ Countries And Territories, that's almost as inclusive as the ISO country codes list. We augmented the UN's 195 countries with 32 additional places—partially recognized states, de facto sovereign states, uninhabited territories, etc.

That just about wraps things up. The people of Earth have agreed that the United Nations will determine whether a state is officially a country or not. They UN has done that, and the total number of recognized countries is 195.

A range of geopolitical forces can change that number—war can impact a nation's sovereignty; fledgling states will continue to strive for independence—the list of official countries will never be etched in stone.

At Seterra, we're on watch, and when the next proud nation achieves the status of being recognized by the UN as a country, we'll have our map and flag quizzes updated that very day!