All eight of these criteria need to be met to determine independent country status:
- Has space or territory that has internationally recognized boundaries.
- Has people who live there on an ongoing basis.
- Has economic activity and organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.
- Has the power of social engineering, such as education.
- Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.
- Has a government that provides public services and police or military power.
- Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country’s territory.
- Has external recognition and be “voted into the club” by other countries.
The actual number of countries is not absolute because the political world is constantly changing and it depends on whom you’re asking. The general answer is anywhere from 189 to 195. The US State Department recognizes 194. Most of the current World Almanacs say 193. The United Nations has 192 members.
There are many reasons for the variations. For example, the US takes into account their political agenda, so it includes Kosovo but not Taiwan. The World Almanac excludes Kosovo. The United Nations doesn’t include Vatican City and Kosovo but does include the new nations of Montenegro and Serbia. And then there is England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. All are considered to be individual countries, but they are still part of the United Kingdom, a European country. Taiwan meets the requirements of an independent country, but due to political reasons, is not recognized by the international community. China claims that Taiwan is simply a province of China. And then there are territories and colonies like Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Greenland, Palestine and Western Sahara, which are governed by other countries. If territories and colonies were included, then the count could go as high as 266 or so.
Here is the link to the US State Department’s list of countries:
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