|Ironically, only 29.31% of the area of planet Earth is
not covered by water. This corresponds to 149.67 million km2
divided into 5 continents: Africa, America, Asia, Europe and
Oceania. Throughout the history of humanity, which has
several disputes over territory, the regions of the world
have been divided into countries. The amount depends mainly
on the political situation of each of them.
First World War, 57 countries were counted in total. With
the end of colonialism in Africa and Asia during the 20th
century, plus the end of the Turkish-Ottoman empire in the
Middle East, this number grew. With the demise of the Soviet
Union during the 1990s, the number increased even more.
It is difficult to determine an absolute number, since
the main institutions linked to international affairs
determine different amounts, according to their own
activities and powers. However, the most accepted count as
an official is that of the UN.
For the United Nations, there are 193
countries. It assumes that a territory is considered a
a) It has well-defined geographical limits;
b) Has a resident population;
c) It has its own currency and economic autonomy;
d) Exercise national sovereignty.
Thus, not all independent governments are counted and, by
the United Nations, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and
Wales all count as one country, the United Kingdom.
In this way, some countries end up being left out of the
list of member countries. However, some of them are
considered “permanent observers” in the UN register, a
situation that gives them the right to vote at conferences.
They are: Vatican, Taiwan, Kosovo and the State of
The UN also leaves out possessions and territories, such
as Greenland, Aruba and the Cayman Islands, which
respectively belong to Denmark, the Netherlands and England.
Under the United Nations system, each continent has the
following number of countries:
From above, we can see that the continent of Oceania has
least number of countries. Among them, Australia and New
Zealand are the two biggest based on land area and
population size according to Countryaah.
Although the UN is the institution most widely recognized
as official to define these data, other organizations also
assume their own count according to their purposes. This is
the case of the International Football Federation
(FIFA) and the International Olympic Committee
FIFA accounts for 211 countries, while the IOC has a
total of 202 member countries in its organization.
The main difference is that FIFA regards the territories
of the United Kingdom as different countries. Thus, England,
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales each have their own
football team. In the case of the Olympics, the United
Kingdom participates together.
But there are other similar situations, Hong Kong and
Macau are part of FIFA, but not the IOC, while Monaco and
Palau can compete in the Olympics, but cannot have football
Commerce and Postal Code
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has
164 members. However, as not all countries deal directly
with international trade, this institution has no
relationship with all countries.
On the other hand, for the International
Organization for Standardization (ISO) the number
of countries reaches 246. ISO is responsible for approving
international standards for different technical areas.
One of these standards is called ISO 3166, which
determines the codes for each country and their
subdivisions. Through these codes it is possible to send a
letter to anywhere in the world, which the international
post office will know to identify the location. Even if
countries change their names, these codes remain the same.