Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

List of sovereign states

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This list of sovereign states provides an overview of sovereign states around the world, with information on their status and recognition of their sovereignty.

Membership within the United Nations system divides the 206 listed states into three categories: 193 member states, two observer states, and 11 other states. The sovereignty dispute column indicates states whose sovereignty is undisputed (190 states) and states whose sovereignty is disputed (16 states, out of which there are 6 member states, 1 observer state and 9 other states).

Compiling a list such as this can be a difficult and controversial process, as there is no definition that is binding on all the members of the community of nations concerning the criteria for statehood. For more information on the criteria used to determine the contents of this list, please see the criteria for inclusion section below. The list is intended to include entities that have been recognized to have de facto status as sovereign states, and inclusion should not be seen as an endorsement of any specific claim to statehood in legal terms.

Criteria for inclusion

The dominant customary international law standard of statehood is the declarative theory of statehood, which was codified by the Montevideo Convention of 1933. The Convention defines the state as a person of international law if it "possess[es] the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) a capacity to enter into relations with the other states" so long as it was not "obtained by force whether this consists in the employment of arms, in threatening diplomatic representations, or in any other effective coercive measure".

Debate exists on the degree to which recognition should be included as a criterion of statehood. The declarative theory of statehood argues that statehood is purely objective and recognition of a state by other states is irrelevant. On the other end of the spectrum, the constitutive theory of statehood defines a state as a person under international law only if it is recognised as sovereign by other states. For the purposes of this list, included are all states that either:

  • (a) consider themselves sovereign (through a declaration of independence or some other means) and are often regarded as satisfying the declarative theory of statehood, or
  • (b) are recognised as a sovereign state by at least one UN member state
  • Note that in some cases, there is a divergence of opinion over the interpretation of the first point, and whether an entity satisfies it is disputed.

    On the basis of the above criteria, this list includes the following 206 entities:

  • 203 states recognised by at least one UN member state
  • Two states that satisfy the declarative theory of statehood and are recognised only by non-UN member states: Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Transnistria
  • One state that satisfies the declarative theory of statehood and is not recognised by any other state: Somaliland
  • The table includes bullets representing entities which are either not sovereign states or have a close association to another sovereign state. It also includes subnational areas where the sovereignty of the titular state is limited by an international agreement. Taken together, these include:

  • States in a free association relationship to another state
  • Two entities controlled by Pakistan which are neither sovereign states, dependent territories, or part of another state: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan
  • Dependent territories of another state, as well as areas that exhibit many characteristics of dependent territories according to the dependent territory page
  • Subnational entities created by international agreements
  • References

    List of sovereign states Wikipedia


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