There’s no one definition to what makessomething a country. What decides if a country is a country essentially is whether or notother countries agree that the country is indeed a country. For this reason, countsof the number of countries in the world range from 189-196. Each country decides which othercountries they recognize. If 100 UN member states suddenly recognized your basement asit’s own country then it generally would be accepted that your basement is it’s owncountry. There are, however, a number of steps that any prospective country founder needsto take if they want to have any shot at gaining international recognition.
Make a ClaimThe first thing any one needs to begin creating a country is a piece of land. One way to getit is to steal it. Of course, this involves having enough guns to defend your territory.This would also be problematic for when your country gets to the stage where it’s legitimacyis reviewed by other nations, but this method has worked before. The easier method is toclaim unclaimed land. However, with the advent of satellite imaging and modern cartographythere really are no islands or large pieces of territory that are not known. Despite this,there is a small number of places not governed or claimed by any recognized government. Oneof the better known recent claims happened in an area unclaimed by both Croatia and Serbiaalong the Danube river, the border between the two countries.
This micronation, knownas Liberland, has not received any international recognition and has been denounced by a numberof nations, but it still affirms it’s legitimacy based off the lack of previous claim to it’sland. Its land is actually 17 times larger than the land of the smallest recognized country,the Vatican. Serbia did agree that Liberland did not infringe upon it’s territory, butalso dismissed the endeavor as “frivolous.” Other new nations have had more success atinternational recognition. Most of these are partially recognized nations that split awayfrom a more recognized state with the backing of the people within the territory. An exampleof this is South Ossetia, which split away from Georgia in 1990 and currently is recognizedby Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru. Probably the best known and most hotly contestedrecently formed nation is the State of Palestine. 136 nations recognize the Palestine and in2012 it was designated by the United Nations as a “non-member observer state.” Oneother option for unclaimed land is Antartica. A large section of land known as the MarieByrd land has not been claimed by any recognized nation.
One issue with this option is theUnited Nations’s “Antartica Treaty” which states that “No new claim, or enlargementof an existing claim, to territorial sovereignty shall be asserted while the present Treatyis in force.” There are claims that pre-exist this treaty by seven different nations, althoughthe legitimacy of these claims is disputed given the treaty. In addition to the AntarcticTreaty issue, establishing a sovereign nation in Antartica would be difficult because ofthe next step in the process. Establish a permanent populationA nation is created to serve it’s people, and without people there is no nation. Antarticahas no permanent population. There are always people in Antartica, but these people do notconstitute a permanent population because they are primarily there for research or tourismand none stay in Antartica for more than a few years. Interestingly 11 babies have beenborn in Antartica, but they generally have taken the citizenship of their parents’s country.A permanent population is one of the most basic qualifiers for statehood. A sustainableindependent nation would be near impossible in Antartica. Any settlement would have noreal economy and no way to naturally produce food. However, there are talks of Antarticahaving oil and, if this is the case, a sovereign and potentially prosperous nation could beestablished in the hostile environment, much like the United Arab Emirates.
Similar tothe dozens of Antarctic micronation claims, Liberland struggles with a lack of permanentpopulation. The founder’s attempts to re-enter the territory have been blocked by both Serbiaand Croatia. At this point, it seems unlikely that a permanent population will be establishedin the near future and for this reason the future of Liberland is bleak. 3) Form a GovernmentA well formed government is probably the most important aspect dictating the success ofyour new country. There are tons of forms of government, but considering you’re formingthis country in the 21st century you’re likely to base the government on John Locke’sprinciples of government. Locke’s principles essentially say that, in nature, everybodyhas the right to “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions.” You might notice a similaritybetween this and another famous document. According to Locke, in a natural society,that is without a government, these rights are not protected because there is no higherpower to do so, so in exchange for taking away a part of these rights, for example libertywhen imprisoned or property when taxed, the government acts to protect the very same rights.Locke also states that government only works when there is a common belief in the abstractidea or illusion of government, and therefore a government can only really exist when thepeople are behind it. This is the reason that autocratic or absolutist governments rarelywork in modern society. So now keeping these principles in mind, you need a constitution.Every single recognized country in the world either has a constitution, or some substitutionto it. This is not a complicated process, so I won’t go into too much detail, butessentially any country must have a set of laws, principles, and entities that make upthe country and the constitution works to define and specify these. 4) Gain International RecognitionThis is where all you work comes under scrutiny.
Gaining international recognition is by farthe most difficult step in the country creating process. It takes potentially hundreds ofyears for new countries to be fully or near fully recognized. Chances are that, unlessyou have overwhelming backing from the people within your country, a good reason for theestablishment of your new nation, absolutely undisputed territory, and a well-balanceddemocratic government, you won’t be recognized by any UN member states. The chances of anew well recognized nation outside of Africa or the Balkans is unlikely. The governmentsare too well-established or stable outside of these areas. The final step to gain undisputedrecognition is to be admitted to the United Nations. Any application is reviewed by thesecurity council—composed of China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdomof Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, and a rotating groupof 10 others.
If 10 of the 15 vote in favor of your country, congratulations, you’vejust joined the United Nations! By most metrics, you’re now a country. Of course, other UnitedNations members still can fail to recognize you,and there are plenty of UN member statesthat are not fully recognized, however that’s a topic for another time. So good luck withyour new country, thanks for watching, and see you next time.