It might be a bewildering question for many. Everyone is so used to the idea of a country or a state, and it is not hard to understand why that is the case. It would be hard to find a person alive that is not a citizen or residing in a country. So, what is the point of this blog if everyone knows what a nation is? The answer to this is pretty simple, and it would surprise many that the formal conceptualization of a country is a relatively new concept. In fact, the formal definition of a county was defined as a by-product of the Montevideo Convention. Montevideo Convention was held on Dec 26, 1933, to define the Rights and Duties of States, primarily on the rights and duties of the newly formed independent countries in South America.
The four criteria for statehood
Before going into the rights and duties of a state, the convention had to define what actually a country is. And they did just that in Article 1 of the treaty signed by most of the attendees of the convention. (Bolivia was the only country that didn’t sign the treaty.
Article 1 states that:
“The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”
While the term ‘country’ has several definitions, in its current form, the outline agreed upon in the Montevideo Convention is accepted by the UN and most of the states recognized in the world. In simpler terms, a country is that defined territory that has an established border, a permanent population governed by a legitimate government, and can enter relations with other countries or international bodies like the UN or World Bank.
So how many countries are there in the world at this moment?
The answer to this question is not that simple, and for a country to be declared as one, it has to be recognized by other states as well. The easiest answer to this question is 195 recognized countries that are recognized by the United Nations (193 member states and two non-member observer states: Holy See and Palestine).
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