Showing posts with label united nations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label united nations. Show all posts

Thursday, January 11, 2018

How Many Countries Are There in the World in 2018?

This article, originally from 2011, has been revised and updated to January 2018. You can view some older versions of the article in our archives.

How many countries: map of the world
A world political map published by the US government. South Sudan is the most recent addition to the UN-based list of the world's countries.
One of the most basic questions for map-lovers is, "How many countries are there in the world?" But anyone who just gives you a number isn't telling the whole truth. It actually depends a lot on how you define a "country".

Here are six of the most common answers, each correct in its own way:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How Many Countries Are There in the World in 2017?

There are newer editions of this article available. To find the most recent, view all "How Many Countries in the World" updates!

This article, originally from 2011, has been revised and updated to June 2017.

How many countries in the world?
A world political map published by the US government (public domain)
One of the most basic questions for map-lovers is, "How many countries are there in the world?" But anyone who replies with just a number is leaving out part of the story. It actually depends a lot on how you define a "country".

Here are six of the most common answers, each correct in its own way:

Monday, August 1, 2016

How Many Countries Are There in the World in 2016?

There are newer editions of this article available. To find the most recent, view all "How Many Countries in the World" updates!

This article, originally from 2011, has been revised and updated to August 2016. (Latest update: Gibraltar and Kosovo are now FIFA members.)

How many countries in the world?
A world political map published by the US government (public domain)
One of the most basic questions for map-lovers is, "How many countries are there in the world?" But anyone who replies with a simple number is leaving out part of the story. It actually depends a lot on how you define a "country".

Here are six of the most common answers, each correct in its own way:

Sunday, January 10, 2016

How Many Countries Are There in the World in January 2016?

There are newer editions of this article available. To find the most recent, view all "How Many Countries in the World" updates!

This article was first published in 2011, and the version below was last updated in January 2016 for South Sudan's admission as an Olympic Nation

How many countries in the world?
A world political map published by the U.S. government (public domain)
One of the most basic questions for map-lovers is, "How many countries are there in the world?" But anyone who replies with a simple number is leaving out part of the story. The fact is, the answer depends heavily on how you define "country".

Here are six of the most common answers, each correct in its own way:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Is Palestine Really a Country?

(Keep up with changes to Palestine's situation: view all Palestine updates.)

Palestine is now recognized as a country by both the U.N. and a majority of its members, but many  have questioned whether this new-found status reflects the truth on the ground. Is Palestine really an independent country, or is this a political fantasy concocted by supporters in the U.N.?

The Olso Accords divided the Palestinian territories into three areas of control (see article for explanation). Map by Evan Centanni. Sources: Natural Earth, B'Tselem, U.N. OCHA oPt.
What is a "sovereign state"?
By the most common definition, a "state" has to have:
  1. A government
  2. A defined territory
  3. A permanent population
  4. The ability to conduct foreign relations with other states
This definition is called the "declarative theory of statehood", and was formalized in the Montevideo Convention of 1933. To be a "sovereign" state (i.e. an independent country), it's also important that the government answers to no other country, and that the territory and population are actually under the government's control.

A prospective country that fits these criteria is described by geographers as a de facto sovereign state, even if it's not recognized by the international community (de facto is Latin for "in actual fact").

Friday, November 30, 2012

Palestine Recognized as a Country by the U.N.

(Keep up with changes to Palestine's situation: view all Palestine updates.)

This Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly voted to change Palestine's status in the organization from "observer" to "observer state". This is the first time the international body has recognized Palestine as a state, giving it the same status enjoyed by U.N. non-member Vatican City. 

Map of Israel with the occupied territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights highlighted
The State of Palestine claims the West Bank and Gaza, which are largely occupied by Israel. The Golan Heights are not part of the Palestinian Territories. Public domain map (source).
Until this Thursday, Palestine was a partially recognized country, acknowledged by some U.N. member nations, but not by the U.N. itself (See also: How many countries are there in the world?). Although its delegation has had observer status at the U.N. since 1974, it was never classified as a "state", being treated as something between a country and a non-government organization. Now, the organization has officially voted to change Palestine's status to "observer state" - effectively a recognition that it's an independent country, even though it's still not a U.N. member.

The Palestinian delegation campaigned to join the U.N. as a member last year, but had to give up after the U.S. promised to veto the application in the U.N. Security Council. Observer status, on the other hand, is determined by a majority vote in the U.N. General Assembly, which no single country can veto. That vote happened on November 29th, with members voting 138 to 9 in favor of granting Palestine observer state status (41 members abstained, and 5 were absent from the vote; see the full breakdown of national votes).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Libya Reunited Under Rebels

Country Name (official): Libya (English), Lībyā (Arabic)
News Category: Divided Countries
Summary: Libya's civil war came to an end two weeks ago, as rebels under the National Transitional Council (NTC) completed their two-month campaign to flush out the last forces loyal to dictator Muammar Gaddafi. After taking the capital city of Tripoli in August, the NTC had already assumed Libya's seat in the United Nations, the African Union, and the Arab League, with formal recognition from 100 U.N. member states. With the end of the war, the air-based foreign military intervention that helped bring victory to the rebels has also now come to a close.
The NTC's last campaigns to reunite Libya. Gaddafi-held cities (green) and
rebel-held cities (black) as of 2 Sep. Rebel movements and capture dates
in red. My own work based on public domain map from Wikipedia (source).

Full Story
Libya's participation in the "Arab Spring" movement happening across the Middle East and North Africa began as a series of protests in February, and quickly transformed into an armed uprising after national leader Muammar Gaddafi responded with violent crackdowns. Soon the country's territory was divided between Gaddafi's government and rebel forces under the National Transitional Council (NTC), with the latter dominating the eastern half of the country as well as the western mountains near Tripoli, the national capital. A near-stalemate held for about five months, as a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone and NATO-led bombing campaign kept Gaddafi's forces at bay. Then, in late August, the rebels suddenly stormed into Tripoli, taking the national capital and many of the surrounding areas. The Gaddafi government only remained in control of a few scattered cities and desert outposts.

See Also: Political Geography Now: Libyan Rebels Take Capital

The NTC's official flag of Libya (bottom) has replaced that
of Gaddafi (top). Public domain, from this Wikipedia page.
For two months following the takeover of Tripoli, the NTC mounted a campaign to drive out the last bastions of Gaddafi loyalist control and reunite the country under their own banner. The first area to fall was the southwestern Fezzan, a desert region with Sabha as its major city, in mid-to-late September. Then came Tripoli's neighbor Bani Walid on 17 October, and finally Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte three days later. As Sirte fell to the rebels, Gaddafi himself was finally captured, and soon died under mysterious circumstances. NTC Chair Mustafa Abdul Jalil declared the war officially over on 23 October. NATO's enforcement and bombing mission ended one week later, following the U.N. Security Council's withdrawal of its authorization for a no-fly zone and military protection of civilians. The rebel victory also brings an end to the dispute over the country's flag (see illustration at left) and its official name, now just "Libya" rather than Gaddafi's inventive "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya."

Wikipedia: 2011 Libyan Civil War

As the NTC rebels expanded their control over the country and Libyan diplomats abroad defected by the dozen, many countries around the world made the gesture of recognizing the NTC as the legitimate government of Libya. One hundred U.N. member states and four non-member states have declared their recognition of the new government, though the point is largely moot now that the NTC officially represents Libya in the United Nations itself. On 16 September, the U.N. General Assembly voted by a majority to hand over the country's seat to the NTC, with 114 countries in favor and only 17 countries from Africa and Latin America voting against (a number of other delegations abstained or were absent). The African Union, within which Muammar Gaddafi was until recently a prominent figure, had declined to fully support the rebels during the war, but finally authorized the NTC to hold Libya's seat in the organization on 20 October. Libya is also a member of the Arab League, which handed representation over to the NTC after the fall of Tripoli in August. Prior to that, Libya's Arab League membership had been suspended in support of the rebels.

Countries officially recognizing the NTC during the war in dark blue, and countries officially opposing it in dark red. Libya in yellow. Countries in lighter colors unofficially acknowledged or opposed the NTC through diplomatic activities or votes in the U.N. General Assembly. Slightly modified from public domain Wikimedia map (source).
Wikipedia: International Recognition of the National Transitional Council

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

States Recognize Palestine Ahead of U.N. Bid

Country Name: Palestine (English), Filastin (Arabic)
Official Name: State of Palestine (English), Dawlat Filastin (Arabic)
News Category: Partially Recognized States, Diplomatic Recognition
Summary: The Palestinian Liberation Organization, which claims sovereignty over the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as the State of Palestine, will apply for U.N. membership this week. Meanwhile, the total number of countries recognizing Palestinian independence has grown sharply in the lead-up to the U.N. bid.
The Palestinian Territories. Area A: Full Palestinian Control
(on the ground); Area B: Joint Palestinian-Israeli Control;
Area C: Full Israeli Control. Israeli government considers
the green areas "disputed territory". Map is my own work.
Sources: Natural Earth, B'Tselem, U.N. OCHA oPt, others.


Full Story
Palestine is a unique case within the nation-state system. It is recognized as an independent state by more than half of the world's countries, but not by the U.N. itself or by any major Western powers. It indirectly administers much of its claimed territories, yet exercises full sovereign control over none of them. At the heart of one of the world's most intractable conflicts, it is perhaps the most controversial topic in international politics. The coming weeks could see significant changes to the political status of the Palestinian Territories on the world stage.


The Palestinian Territories are made up of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, two regions previously controlled by Jordan and Egypt respectively, which were captured by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967. Israel has never fully relinquished control, and Egypt and Jordan eventually gave up their claims to the regions, leaving them in an unusual political situation. Despite widespread calls for independence based on a 1947 U.N. partition plan, Israel refuses to refer to them as anything other than "disputed territories" until negotiations determine their final status. Some of the land within the territories is now administered by the Palestinians, though much of it is still ruled by the Israeli military, which also controls all associated airspace and territorial waters.

Wikipedia: History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict 

This week, Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), will formally request full membership for the State of Palestine in the United Nations. The PLO declared independence in 1988, and has enjoyed a degree of support from the U.N. General Assembly, but currently only holds observer status in the organization, which pointedly labels it as a "non-state entity". Palestinian membership in the U.N. is likely to be vetoed by the U.S., which holds a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council. However, Palestine may still achieve "state observer" status by a majority vote in the General Assembly, which would elevate it to the same level as the Holy See (Vatican City): a U.N.-recognized state with legal rights.

Countries recognizing the State of Palestine. Recent additions (in the last year) indicated in lighter color.
Modified from this map by Alinor at en.wikipedia (license: CC BY-SA).
Though 90 U.N. members recognized Palestine during the first year after its declaration, the number grew little over the next 15 years. However, since the campaign for U.N. membership began a few years ago, recognition has risen sharply. The State of Palestine is now recognized by 126 U.N. members - nearly two-thirds of the world body - 17 of which have announced their recognition just in the last year. This summer alone has seen six new additions: Syria, Liberia, El Salvador, Honduras, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Belize. Palestine's independence is also endorsed by Western Sahara, a partially-recognized state without U.N. membership.

Chart over time of total U.N. members recognizing the State of Palestine. My own work (source).

Wikipedia:
State of Palestine, Palestinian Territories, International Recognition of the State of Palestine

Friday, July 22, 2011

South Sudan Joins U.N.

Country Name: South Sudan
Official Name: Republic of South Sudan
News Categories: Intergovernmental Organizations, New Countries
Summary: The newly independent Republic of South Sudan was admitted into the United Nations (U.N.) last week, effectively giving it full status as a nation-state in the international community. Diplomatic recognition from individual countries is still continuing, though the process is now little more than a formality.
U.N. headquarters in New York fly South Sudan's flag
after accepting the new state as a member. U.N. photo
used in accordance with official usage policy (source).

See Also: New Country: South Sudan

Full Story
Just five days after officially declaring independence, the new Republic of South Sudan has been welcomed as the 193rd member of the United Nations. The small African country received membership through a unanimous vote of the U.N. General Assembly on July 14th, following a recommendation from the U.N. Security Council the day before, which was also unanimous. Membership will allow the new state to participate fully in the U.N. and all of its associated organizations, and gives it the legitimacy required for a guaranteed place on world maps and lists of the world's countries.

See Also: How many countries are there in the world? (UPDATED)

In addition to U.N. membership, South Sudan has continued to receive recognition from individual countries. Approximately 88 U.N. members and six other sovereign states have now made official statements recognizing the new country. Although that still leaves 104 U.N. member countries which have not yet formally recognized South Sudan, the unanimous vote of the U.N. General Assembly suggests that all members do intend to acknowledge its legitimacy, whether by official decree or not. No state has indicated any intention to oppose the new state's independence.

Countries which have officially stated their recognition of South Sudan's sovereignty (green). South Sudan in blue. Modified from this Wikimedia map (public domain).

Wikipedia: South Sudan, Foreign Relations of South Sudan, United Nations