The all but certain emergence of a new country to follow the referendum in Southern Sudan, which begins today, has had me thinking: what does it take to raise a country from infancy onwards to maturity? This in turn triggered another question in my mind, why are countries formed; can we all not agree to live and be governed by one government?
Or put another way, can we not have a One World United, let’s call it the United World of the World (UWWW)? So before looking into what does a new country like the one about to be formed in Southern Sudan needs from infancy to maturity, I decided to look into these other questions that came in mind; not all of them. But the two I have mentioned above, namely, why are countries formed and why can we not live under one roof, in one country, that is.
The first thing I wanted to find out is how many countries are in the world as I write only to find out that, while it would appear to be a rather simple matter to determine how many countries there are in the world, it is in fact quite complex. This is due not only to the ever-shifting political landscape, but also because the term “countries” is somewhat fluid and open to interpretation.
A narrow definition of what a country is might look at a well-established group – such as the United Nations – and take its list of recognized members. Going by the United Nations, there are 193 recognized states, with 192 being members of the United Nations, and the Vatican City, which is a permanent observer with all rights of a member, save voting rights.
One could also take an established definition for what a state is, and find all states which match that definition. The most widely-accepted definition is given by the Montevideo Convention, from 1933. By these guidelines, a state must have a government, be in a position to interact with other states diplomatically, have a defined territory, and possess a permanent population.
A rough count of states that meet this criteria places the number of countries in the world at 201. That includes the 193 states recognized by the United Nations, as well as eight additional states: the Western Sahara, Taiwan, Northern Cyprus, Somaliland, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. These states meet the criteria set out by the Montevideo Convention, but are all in a struggle with another, larger state, for independence, and so far have not been formally recognized by the United Nations.
An even broader definition could include some states which have been recognized by a number of countries, but have either failed to establish a steady government, or have failed to receive recognition by enough fellow states to truly meet the criteria of the Montevideo Convention. By adding in states such as the Cook Islands, Palestine, or the Chechen Republic, one could get to a much greater number of countries in the world – somewhere in the range of 210-230.
Going even broader, one can include countries that are part of a larger country, sometimes referred to as constituent countries. One obvious example of this would be the countries of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – all making up the single country of the United Kingdom. In most counts of the countries in the world, these four countries are counted as one, but they could easily be counted as four instead. By including these types of countries there could be many hundreds of more countries in the world.
Similarly, territories – such as the territory of Guam, a possession of the United States – are usually not counted in an official count, but are states by many criteria. These are referred to by the United Nations as Non-Self Governing Territories, and include an additional 16 territories.
So, going back to my question how many countries are there in the world, the short answer is 193 by the count of the United Nations, 201 by a narrow interpretation of the Montevideo Conventions and somewhere over 220 by a looser interpretation of the Conventions.
Having found out the number of countries in the world, I next wanted to know why do we even have these many countries; can we not all live under one country, one global village so to speak? Before I could even engage myself to answer the question, I spontenously thought about the familiar story about the building of the Tower of Babel found in Genesis 11:1-9 about the tower of Babel; could it offer an answer to this question?
The Bible tells us that a united people with one language living after the Great Flood, migrated to the land of Shinar, where they resolved to build a city with a tower “with its top in the heavens.” God came down to see what they were up-to and said: “Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel.
Did God intend to create many small nations out of one? I think so; therefore there is no reason to go against His wish and try to go back to the day before the Great Flood in forming one world, one nation so God provided the justification upon which these countries may be created and that is, diversity united by a common goal and purpose to celebrate the differences among as even as we are united in Him. Now, this is but one believe why I think countries are necessary but it is just that; one’s belief. In reality, a quest for political freedom from oppression drives formation of many a country.
That being settled, I come to the question that started all this for me; what does it take to raise from infancy to maturity, a new country like the soon likely to emerge in Southern Sudan? To be sure, a new country faces daunting challenges, not the least of which is stability, especially where those from whence they have been given birth, have unfinished agenda. Setting aside stability challenges related to overall security, there are several other challenges such a country will face and even though some of these challenges are relatively easy to address, such as picking the country’s name (akin to naming a child, except it is not a good idea to pick a name that already exists), or picking a national anthem, ditto, other challenges are complex and require a great deal of money and expertise to successfully tackle. The major ones that come to mind are the following:
• Establishing a political system and corresponding voting rights
• Establishing an economic system
• Establishing a legal system
• Establishing monetary and tax systems
• Establishing an agricultural system not only to feed the nation but also to start off the economy by providing resources for commodities trade.
• Establishing a basic education system, especially vocational education so that the country can build up its working force.
• Establishing a healthcare system to keep everyone healthy to fight the new government
• Establishing law enforcement, both a military to protect from outside forces and a policing force to enforce domestic peace.
• Along with all the setting up, it would be very useful to start trading with other nations as soon as possible.
• Securing and/or expanding relations with influential large nations that would give the new state political, financial, and possible military backing.
• Last but definitely not least – build a new and expanded infrastructure
• Establishing a monetary system
Tackling these challenges is not going to be easy, but, as is in the case of the birth of a new baby where the parents would have taken all the time necessary to study parenting and what comes with it, one can assume Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir has been doing just that relative to the birth of the new country and is ready to nurse and raise the soon to be born country. As is also the case in new births, one hopes family and friends are ready to offer a hand as necessary except changing diapers, which only the brave of the bravest family and friends would dare.