How many countries are there really?
From the moment I started my mission, I have been flooded with questions. One of the most common of them? “How many countries are there?” “It says there are only 193?” “Wait, I thought there were 196 so how are you coming up with 197”? “I heard there was 198?” “Well, I heard there is only 195.” The questions, the facts, they just keep on coming, so I figured I would try to clear up some of the confusion.
How many countries are there? Well, the answer depends on whom you’re asking. If you are referring to whom the United Nations or the sovereign states recognize as countries, then there are 193 countries; two countries are “non-members” of the UN observer states; The Vatican City and the State of Palestine. If you add the two “non-members” this gives you 195 countries. Along with that number, a lot of people will argue that Taiwan is the 196th country; this is because it operates as an independent country. However, many countries including the United States don’t officially recognize it as its own and claim it to be a territory of the People’s Republic of China. The PROC considers Taiwan as a breakaway province of China and countries that wish to maintain relations with China have had to sever their relations with Taiwan. Like Taiwan, another disputed country is Kosovo. The US, as well as many other countries, recognize it as an independent country ever since it broke away from Serbia in 2008 but Serbia, Russia, and many other European countries do not consider it to be an independent country.
So, one could say there are 197 countries if you count Taiwan and Kosovo; but I believe we could take it a step further and claim that there are in fact 198 countries by adding the infamous Western Sahara; a region in Northwest Africa owned by neighboring Morocco. Western Sahara has been trying to become independent for decades. Claiming that there are 198 countries is a difficult opinion to backup, as Western Sahara is not recognized as a sovereign state by any other country; however, unlike other territories, the Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of “non-self-governing territories.” Therefore, some say there are 198 countries until many others counter argues that if you count the Western Sahara you must count Greenland and other territories.
I think the safest answer is either 195 or 196 countries; but I plan to go for 197, and golly maybe even 198 in hopes that soon, Western Sahara does become recognized as a “Sovereign State” aka country! Then, I can say I have still been to every country and found the true meaning of beauty there as well – even if it is not a “true” country, I am certain it will give me yet another unique but common theme of what true beauty is.