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Unrecognized Countries 2024

There are about 190 countries today, depending on how other countries recognize those countries. Several countries claim to be sovereign, and some even have their own governments. However, they are not recognized internationally, or may only be accepted minimally, and many think that they do not exist.

The first, and perhaps most significant, unrecognized country is Palestine. While Palestine is recognized by the majority of UN Member states, it is not recognized as a Member State by the UN itself. Jewish people had long claimed the land of Palestine – the historic area of Israel before the diaspora that began in the first century – as their ancestral home. The only problem is that people were living there! A movement for the Jews to be able to return to Palestine and form their own state, known as Zionism, gained traction in the late 1800s, particularly in the face of widespread oppression and persecution of Jews who lived in Europe. That persecution culminated in the tragedy of the Holocaust, after which many Jews migrated to Palestine. An ensuing war between Jews and Palestinians led to what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, in which they were forcibly displaced from their homes. Today, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza have their own governments and are pressing for international recognition of statehood. However, their efforts are stymied by governments who believe that only Jews have the right to live in the land of Palestine.

Another important one that you may not have heard of but which fuels much political debate today is Kurdistan. The Kurdish people – who have their own language, religious practices, and other cultural norms – live primarily in a swathe of land that covers parts of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. In some places, such as northern Iraq, they have their own government, while in other areas, such as Turkey, they are subject to brutal repression by the Turkish government. Calls to recognize Kurdistan’s country could lead to peace between the Kurds and governments that attempt to eradicate them. However, as with Palestine, those calls are mostly unheeded.

In 2017, the region of Catalonia, part of Spain, declared independence, which has long been a goal of many Catalan people. The effort was short-lived, and the country did not receive international recognition. However, Spain’s treatment of the Catalan independence movement received widespread condemnation, especially since it imprisoned many of the leaders who sought independence.

There are many other unrecognized countries throughout the world, and there tends to be political turmoil over their status.

  • Cook Islands and Niue are self-governing states that have unique "free association" ties to New Zealand. They are recognized as sovereign states by some UN members, but not by others.
  • It is not necessary for a state to attain unanimous recognition in order to become a United Nations member (and country). China, for example, is a founding UN member, but is not currently recognized by Taiwan.

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Official Country Name
Year Declared
Other Claimants to Territory
UN Member Status
Level of Recognition
Additional Details
ArmeniaRepublic of Armenia1991NoneUN memberMany, but not all, UN members
Armenia, independent since 1991, supports the disputed area Artsakh's claim to independence from Aze...
ChinaPeople's Republic of China1949Taiwan (Republic of China)UN memberMany, but not all, UN members
The People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of Taiwan (ROC) both claim authority over all ...
Cook IslandsCook Islands1965New Zealand (free association)Associated stateAt least one UN member
The Cook Islands became a state in free association with New Zealand in 1965. The Cook Islands are f...
CyprusRepublic of Cyprus1960Northern CyprusUN memberMany, but not all, UN members
The Republic of Cyprus, independent since 1960, is not recognised by one UN member (Turkey) and one ...
IsraelState of Israel1948Palestine and SyriaUN memberMany, but not all, UN members
Israel, founded in 1948, is not recognised by 28 UN members. - The Palestine Liberation Organizatio...
MaltaSovereign Military Order of Malta1113NoneNon-UN memberLimited
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) is considered a sovereign non-state entity as it claims...
NiueNiue1974New Zealand (free association)Associated stateAt least one UN member
Niue became a state in free association with New Zealand in 1974 after a constitutional referendum. ...
North KoreaDemocratic People's Republic of Korea1948South KoreaUN memberMany, but not all, UN members
North Korea (officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea), independent since 1948, is not r...
PalestineState of Palestine1988IsraelUN memberMany, but not all, UN members
Israel gained control of the Palestinian territories as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967, but has...
South KoreaRepublic of Korea1948North KoreaUN memberMany, but not all, UN members
South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea), independent since 1948, is not recognised by one UN ...
TaiwanRepublic of China1912ChinaNon-UN memberAt least one UN member
The Republic of China (ROC) was constitutionally formed in 1912, and located primarily in Taiwan sin...
Western SaharaSahrawi Arab Democratic Republic1976MoroccoNon-UN memberAt least one UN member
Morocco invaded and annexed most of Western Sahara in 1975. - Only Morocco and the United States ha...

What is the most unrecognized country?

Even though Palestine is recognized my many UN states, the UN itself does not recognize it, which makes it the most unrecognized country in the world.

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