Photos of World

View of the Earth from space showing most of the Western Hemisphere including all of the North American continent and the northern portion of South America. Image courtesy of NASA.

Introduction

Background

Globally, the 20th century was marked by: (a) two devastating world wars; (b) the Great Depression of the 1930s; (c) the end of vast colonial empires; (d) rapid advances in science and technology, from the first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (US) to the landing on the moon; (e) the Cold War between the Western alliance and the Warsaw Pact nations; (f) a sharp rise in living standards in North America, Europe, and Japan; (g) increased concerns about environmental degradation including deforestation, energy and water shortages, declining biological diversity, and air pollution; (h) the onset of the AIDS epidemic; and (i) the ultimate emergence of the US as the only world superpower. The planet's population continues to explode: from 1 billion in 1820 to 2 billion in 1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, and 7 billion in 2012. For the 21st century, the continued exponential growth in science and technology raises both hopes (e.g., advances in medicine and agriculture) and fears (e.g., development of even more lethal weapons of war).

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Geographic overview

The surface of the Earth is approximately 70.9% water and 29.1% land. The former portion is divided into large bodies termed oceans. The World Factbook recognizes and describes five oceans, which are in decreasing order of size: the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, and Arctic Ocean. Because of their immense size, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are generally divided at the equator into the North and South Pacific Oceans and the North and South Atlantic Oceans, thus creating seven major water bodies - the so-called "Seven Seas."

Some 97.5% of the Earth's water is saltwater. Of the 2.5% that is fresh, about two-thirds is frozen mostly locked up in the Antarctic ice sheets and mountain glaciers worldwide. If all the surface ice on earth fully melted, the sea level would rise about 70 m (230 ft).

In a 100-year period, a water molecule spends 98 years in the ocean, 20 months as ice, about two weeks in lakes and rivers, and less than a week in the atmosphere. Groundwater can take 50 years to just traverse 1 km (0.6 mi).

Earth's land portion is generally divided into several, large, discrete landmasses termed continents. Depending on the convention used, the number of continents can vary from five to seven. The most common classification recognizes seven, which are (from largest to smallest): Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia. Asia and Europe are sometimes lumped together into a Eurasian continent resulting in six continents. Alternatively, North and South America are sometimes grouped as simply the Americas, resulting in a continent total of six (or five, if the Eurasia designation is used).

North America is commonly understood to include the island of Greenland, the isles of the Caribbean, and to extend south all the way to the Isthmus of Panama. The easternmost extent of Europe is generally defined as being the Ural Mountains and the Ural River; on the southeast the Caspian Sea; and on the south the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean. Portions of five countries - Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkey - fall within both Europe and Asia, but in every instance the larger section is in Asia. These countries are considered part of both continents. Armenia and Cyprus, which lie completely in Western Asia, are geopolitically European countries.

Asia usually incorporates all the islands of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The islands of the Pacific are often lumped with Australia into a "land mass" termed Oceania or Australasia. Africa's northeast extremity is frequently delimited at the Isthmus of Suez, but for geopolitical purposes, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula is often included as part of Africa.

Although the above groupings are the most common, different continental dispositions are recognized or taught in certain parts of the world, with some arrangements more heavily based on cultural spheres rather than physical geographic considerations.

Based on the seven-continent model, and grouping islands with adjacent continents, Africa has the most countries with 54. Europe contains 49 countries and Asia 48, but these two continents share five countries: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkey. North America consists of 23 sovereign states, Oceania has 14, and South America 12.

countries by continent: Africa (54): Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe;

Europe (49): Albania, Andorra, Austria, Azerbaijan*, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia*, Germany, Greece, Holy See (Vatican City), Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan*, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia*, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey*, Ukraine, United Kingdom (* indicates part of the country is also in Asia);

Asia (48): Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan*, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Georgia*, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan*, North Korea, South Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russia*, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkey*, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen (* indicates part of the country is also in Europe);

North America (23): Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States;

Oceania (14): Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu;

South America (12): Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela

the world from space: Earth is the only planet in the Solar System to have water in its three states of matter: liquid (oceans, lakes, and rivers), solid (ice), and gas (water vapor in clouds); from a distance, Earth would be the brightest of the eight planets in the Solar System; this luminous effect would be because of the sunlight reflected by the planet's water

Earth is also the only planet in the Solar System known to be active with earthquakes and volcanoes; these events form the landscape, replenish carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and erase impact craters caused by meteors

Map references

Physical Map of the World

Area

total: 510.072 million sq km

land: 148.94 million sq km

water: 361.9 million sq km

note: 70.9% of the world's surface is water, 29.1% is land

Area - comparative

land area about 16 times the size of the US

Africa-US area comparison map
Antarctica-US area comparison map
Asia-US area comparison map
Australia-US area comparison map
Europe-US area comparison map
North America - US area comparison map
South America-US area comparison map

Area - rankings

top fifteen World Factbook entities ranked by size: Pacific Ocean 155,557,000 sq km; Atlantic Ocean 76,762,000 sq km; Indian Ocean 68,556,000 sq km; Southern Ocean 20,327,000 sq km; Russia 17,098,242 sq km; Antarctica 14,200,000 sq km; Arctic Ocean 14,056,000 sq km; Canada 9,984,670 sq km; United States 9,826,675 sq km; China 9,596,960 sq km; Brazil 8,515,770 sq km; Australia 7,741,220 sq km; European Union 4,324,782 sq km; India 3,287,263 sq km; Argentina 2,780,400 sq km

top ten largest water bodies: Pacific Ocean 155,557,000 sq km; Atlantic Ocean 76,762,000 sq km; Indian Ocean 68,556,000 sq km; Southern Ocean 20,327,000 sq km; Arctic Ocean 14,056,000 sq km; Coral Sea 4,184,100 sq km; South China Sea 3,595,900 sq km; Caribbean Sea 2,834,000 sq km; Bering Sea 2,520,000 sq km; Mediterranean Sea 2,469,000 sq km

top ten largest landmasses: Asia 44,568,500 sq km; Africa 30,065,000 sq km; North America 24,473,000 sq km; South America 17,819,000 sq km; Antarctica 14,200,000 sq km; Europe 9,948,000 sq km; Australia 7,741,220 sq km; Greenland 2,166,086 sq km; New Guinea 785,753 sq km; Borneo 751,929 sq km

top ten largest islands: Greenland 2,166,086 sq km; New Guinea (Indonesia, Papua New Guinea) 785,753 sq km; Borneo (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia) 751,929 sq km; Madagascar 587,713 sq km; Baffin Island (Canada) 507,451 sq km; Sumatra (Indonesia) 472,784 sq km; Honshu (Japan) 227,963 sq km; Victoria Island (Canada) 217,291 sq km; Great Britain (United Kingdom) 209,331 sq km; Ellesmere Island (Canada) 196,236 sq km

top ten longest mountain ranges (land-based): Andes (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina) 7,000 km; Rocky Mountains (Canada, US) 4,830 km; Great Dividing Range (Australia) 3,700 km; Transantarctic Mountains (Antarctica) 3,500 km; Kunlun Mountains (China) 3,000 km; Ural Mountains (Russia, Kazakhstan) 2,640 km; Atlas Mountains (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) 2,500 km; Appalachian Mountains (Canada, US) 2,400 km; Himalayas (Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, China, Nepal, Bhutan) 2,300 km; Altai Mountains (Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia) 2,000 km; note - lengths are approximate; if oceans are included, the Mid-Ocean Ridge is by far the longest mountain range at 40,389 km

top ten largest forested countries (sq km and percent of land): Russia 8,149,310 (49.8%); Brazil 4,935,380 (58.9%); Canada 3,470,690 (38.2%); United States 3,103,700 (33.9%); China 2,098,640 (22.3%); Democratic Republic of the Congo 1,522,670 (67.2%); Australia 1,250,590 (16.3%); Indonesia 903,250 (49.9%); Peru 738,054 (57.7%); India 708,600 (23.8%) (2016 est.)

top ten most densely forested countries (percent of land): Suriname (98.3%), Federated States of Micronesia (91.9%), Gabon (90%), Seychelles (88.4%), Palau (87.6%), Guyana (83.9%), Laos (82.1%), Solomon Islands (77.9%), Papua New Guinea (74.1%), Finland (73.1%) (2016 est.)

top ten largest (non-polar) deserts: Sahara (Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan, Tunisia) 9,200,000 sq km; Arabian (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Yemen) 2,330,000 sq km; Gobi (China, Mongolia) 1,295,000 sq km; Kalahari (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa) 900,000 sq km; Patagonian (Argentina) 673,000 sq km; Syrian (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) 500,000 sq km; Chihuahuan (Mexico) 362,000 sq km; Kara-Kum (Turkmenistan) 350,000 sq km; Great Victoria (Australia) 348,750 sq km; Great Basin (United States) 343,169 sq km; note - if the two polar deserts are included, they would rank first and second: Antarctic Desert 14,200,000 sq km and Arctic Desert 13,900,000 sq km

ten smallest independent countries: Holy See (Vatican City) 0.44 sq km; Monaco 2 sq km; Nauru 21 sq km; Tuvalu 26 sq km; San Marino 61 sq km; Liechtenstein 160 sq km; Marshall Islands 181 sq km; Saint Kitts and Nevis 261 sq km; Maldives 298 sq km; Malta 316 sq km

Land boundaries

the land boundaries in The World Factbook total 279,035.5 km (not counting shared boundaries twice); two nations, China and Russia, each border 14 other countries

note 1: the total is actually misleading in terms of accuracy, since one cannot accurately measure every river meander along a boundary; a number rounded slightly higher - to 280,000 km - makes more sense and has been coordinated with and approved by the US State Department

note 2: 46 nations and other areas are landlocked, these include: Afghanistan, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Czechia, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Holy See (Vatican City), Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Paraguay, Rwanda, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, South Sudan, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, West Bank, Zambia, Zimbabwe; two of these, Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan, are doubly landlocked

note 3: worldwide, some one-quarter of interior (non-coastal) borders are rivers; South America with 43% leads the continents, followed by North America with 32%, Africa with 30%, Europe with 23%, and Asia with 18%; Australia has no interior national river borders

Coastline

356,000 km

note: 95 nations and other entities are islands that border no other countries, they include: American Samoa, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Baker Island, Barbados, Bermuda, Bouvet Island, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cabo Verde, Cayman Islands, Christmas Island, Clipperton Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Comoros, Cook Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Cyprus, Dominica, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Faroe Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Greenland, Grenada, Guam, Guernsey, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Howland Island, Iceland, Isle of Man, Jamaica, Jan Mayen, Japan, Jarvis Island, Jersey, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Kiribati, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mayotte, Federated States of Micronesia, Midway Islands, Montserrat, Nauru, Navassa Island, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Palmyra Atoll, Paracel Islands, Philippines, Pitcairn Islands, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Solomon Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Spratly Islands, Sri Lanka, Svalbard, Taiwan, Tokelau, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Virgin Islands, Wake Island, Wallis and Futuna

Maritime claims

a variety of situations exist, but in general, most countries make the following claims measured from the mean low-tide baseline as described in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: territorial sea - 12 nm, contiguous zone - 24 nm, and exclusive economic zone - 200 nm; additional zones provide for exploitation of continental shelf resources and an exclusive fishing zone; boundary situations with neighboring states prevent many countries from extending their fishing or economic zones to a full 200 nm

Climate

a wide equatorial band of hot and humid tropical climates, bordered north and south by subtropical temperate zones that separate two large areas of cold and dry polar climates

Ten Driest Places on Earth (Average Annual Precipitation): McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica 0 mm (0 in)
Arica, Chile 0.76 mm (0.03 in)
Al Kufrah, Libya 0.86 mm (0.03 in)
Aswan, Egypt 0.86 mm (0.03 in)
Luxor, Egypt 0.86 mm (0.03 in)
Ica, Peru 2.29 mm (0.09 in)
Wadi Halfa, Sudan 2.45 mm (0.1 in)
Iquique, Chile 5.08 mm (0.2 in)
Pelican Point, Namibia 8.13 mm (0.32 in)
El Arab (Aoulef), Algeria 12.19 mm (0.48 in)

Ten Wettest Places on Earth (Average Annual Precipitation): Mawsynram, India 11,871 mm (467.4 in)
Cherrapunji, India 11,777 mm (463.7 in)
Tutunendo, Colombia 11,770 mm (463.4 in)
Cropp River, New Zealand 11,516 mm (453.4 in)
San Antonia de Ureca, Equatorial Guinea 10,450 mm (411.4 in)
Debundsha, Cameroon 10,299 mm (405.5 in)
Big Bog, US (Hawaii) 10,272 mm (404.4 in)
Mt Waialeale, US (Hawaii) 9,763 mm (384.4 in)
Kukui, US (Hawaii) 9,293 mm (365.9 in)
Emeishan, China 8,169 mm (321.6 in)

Ten Coldest Places on Earth (Lowest Average Monthly Temperature): Verkhoyansk, Russia (Siberia) -47°C (-53°F) January
Oymyakon, Russia (Siberia) -46°C (-52°F) January
Eureka, Canada -38.4°C (-37.1°F) February
Isachsen, Canada -36°C (-32.8°F) February
Alert, Canada -34°C (-28°F) February
Kap Morris Jesup, Greenland -34°C (-29°F) March
Cornwallis Island, Canada -33.5°C (-28.3°F) February
Cambridge Bay, Canada -33.5°C (28.3°F) February
Ilirnej, Russia -33°C (-28°F) January
Resolute, Canada -33°C (-27.4°F) February

Ten Hottest Places on Earth (Highest Average Monthly Temperature): Death Valley, US (California) 39°C (101°F) July
Iranshahr, Iran 38.3°C (100.9°F) June
Ouallene, Algeria 38°C (100.4°F) July
Kuwait City, Kuwait 37.7°C (100°F) July
Medina, Saudi Arabia 36°C (97°F) July
Buckeye, US (Arizona) 34°C (93°F) July
Jazan, Saudi Arabia 33°C (91°F) June
Al Kufrah, Libya 31°C (87°F) July
Alice Springs, Australia 29°C (84°F) January
Tamanrasset, Algeria 29°C (84°F) June

Terrain

tremendous variation of terrain on each of the continents; check the World 'Elevation' entry for a compilation of terrain extremes; the world's ocean floors are marked by mid-ocean ridges while the ocean surfaces form a dynamic, continuously changing environment; check the 'Terrain' field and its 'major surface currents' and 'ocean zones' subfields under each of the five ocean (Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, and Southern) entries for further information on oceanic environs

Ten Cave Superlatives: compiled from "Geography - note(s)" under various country entries where more details may be found

largest cave: Son Doong in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam is the world's largest cave (greatest cross sectional area) and is the largest known cave passage in the world by volume; it currently measures a total of 38.5 million cu m (about 1.35 billion cu ft); it connects to Thung cave (but not yet officially); when recognized, it will add an additional 1.6 million cu m in volume

largest ice cave:
the Eisriesenwelt (Ice Giants World) inside the Hochkogel mountain near Werfen, Austria is the world's largest and longest ice cave system at 42 km (26 mi)

longest cave:
Mammoth Cave, in west-central Kentucky, is the world's longest known cave system with more than 650 km (405 mi) of surveyed passageways

longest salt cave: the Malham Cave in Mount Sodom in Israel is the world's longest salt cave at 10 km (6 mi); its survey is not complete and its length will undoubtedly increase

longest underwater cave: the Sac Actun cave system in Mexico at 348 km (216 mi) is the longest underwater cave in the world and the second longest cave worldwide

longest lava tube cave: Kazumura Cave on the island of Hawaii is the world's longest and deepest lava tube cave; it has been surveyed at 66 km (41 mi) long and 1,102 m (3,614 ft) deep

deepest cave: Veryovkina Cave in the Caucasus country of Georgia is the world's deepest cave, plunging down 2,212 m (7,257 ft)

deepest underwater cave: the Hranice Abyss in Czechia is the world's deepest surveyed underwater cave at 404 m (1,325 ft); its survey is not complete and it could end up being some 800-1,200 m deep

largest cave chamber: the Miao Room in the Gebihe cave system at China's Ziyun Getu He Chuandong National Park encloses some 10.78 million cu m (380.7 million cu ft) of volume

largest bat cave: Bracken Cave outside of San Antonio, Texas is the world's largest bat cave; it is the summer home to the largest colony of bats in the world; an estimated 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost in the cave from March to October making it the world's largest known concentration of mammals

Elevation

highest point: Mount Everest 8,849 m

lowest point: Denman Glacier (Antarctica) more than -3,500 m (in the oceanic realm, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is the lowest point, lying -10,924 m below the surface of the Pacific Ocean)

mean elevation: 840 m

top ten highest mountains (measured from sea level): Mount Everest (China-Nepal) 8,849 m; K2 (Pakistan) 8,611 m; Kanchenjunga (India-Nepal) 8,598 m; Lhotse (Nepal) 8,516 m; Makalu (China-Nepal) 8,463 m; Cho Oyu (China-Nepal) 8,201 m; Dhaulagiri (Nepal) 8,167 m; Manaslu (Nepal) 8,163 m; Nanga Parbat (Pakistan) 8,125 m; Anapurna (Nepal) 8,091 m; note - Mauna Kea (United States) is the world's tallest mountain as measured from base to summit; the peak of this volcanic colossus lies on the island of Hawaii, but its base begins more than 70 km offshore and at a depth of about 6,000 m; total height estimates range from 9,966 m to 10,203 m

top ten highest island peaks: Puncak Jaya (New Guinea) 4,884 m (Indonesia)*; Mauna Kea (Hawaii) 4,207 m (United States); Gunung Kinabalu (Borneo) 4,095 m (Malaysia)*; Yu Shan (Taiwan) 3,952 (Taiwan)*; Mount Kerinci (Sumatra) 3,805 m (Indonesia); Mount Erebus (Ross Island) 3,794 (Antarctica); Mount Fuji (Honshu) 3,776 m (Japan)*; Mount Rinjani (Lombok) 3,726 m (Indonesia); Aoraki-Mount Cook (South Island) 3,724 m (New Zealand)*; Pico de Teide (Tenerife) 3,718 m (Spain)*; note - * indicates the highest peak for that Factbook entry

highest point on each continent: Asia - Mount Everest (China-Nepal) 8,849 m; South America - Cerro Aconcagua (Argentina) 6,960 m; North America - Denali (Mount McKinley) (United States) 6,190 m; Africa - Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) 5,895 m; Europe - El'brus (Russia) 5,633 m; Antarctica - Vinson Massif 4,897 m; Australia - Mount Kosciuszko 2,229 m

highest capital on each continent: South America - La Paz (Bolivia) 3,640 m; Africa - Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) 2,355 m; Asia - Thimphu (Bhutan) 2,334 m; North America - Mexico City (Mexico) 2,240 m; Europe - Andorra la Vella (Andorra) 1,023 m; Australia - Canberra (Australia) 605 m

lowest point on each continent: Antarctica - Denman Glacier more than -3,500 m; Asia - Dead Sea (Israel-Jordan) -431 m; Africa - Lac Assal (Djibouti) -155 m; South America - Laguna del Carbon (Argentina) -105 m; North America - Death Valley (United States) -86 m; Europe - Caspian Sea (Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan-Russia) -28 m; Australia - Lake Eyre -15

lowest capital on each continent: Asia - Baku (Azerbaijan) -28 m; Europe - Amsterdam (Netherlands) -2 m; Africa - Banjul (Gambia); Bissau (Guinea-Bissau), Conakry (Guinea), Djibouti (Djibouti), Libreville (Gabon), Male (Maldives), Monrovia (Liberia), Tunis (Tunisia), Victoria (Seychelles) 0 m; North America - Basseterre (Saint Kitts and Nevis), Kingstown (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), Panama City (Panama), Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago), Roseau (Dominica), Saint John's (Antigua and Barbuda), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) 0 m; South America - Georgetown (Guyana) 0 m; Australia - Canberra (Australia) 605 m

Natural resources

the rapid depletion of nonrenewable mineral resources, the depletion of forest areas and wetlands, the extinction of animal and plant species, and the deterioration in air and water quality pose serious long-term problems

Irrigated land

3,242,917 sq km (2012 est.)

Major watersheds (area sq km)

summary statement: a watershed is a drainage basin on an area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water; oceans ultimately take in the drainage from 83% of all land area; the remaining 17% of the land drains into internal (endorheic) basins, e.g., the Caspian Sea; The World Factbook lists 51 different watersheds across 102 countries; of these, 18 are in Asia, 9 in Europe, 9 in Africa, 8 in North and Central America, 5 in South America, and 2 in Australia; all watersheds with an area of at least 500,000 sq km have been included along with a number of smaller, regionally significant watersheds; together, these watersheds represent the surface hydrology water flows that are the World's primary sources of fresh water for individual consumption, industry, and agriculture

Major aquifers

summary statement: aquifers are underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock formations; they include alluvial formations such as unconsolidated sand and gravel aquifers, sedimentary rock formations of sandstone and karst (carbonate rocks such as limestone) aquifers, as well as volcanic aquifers, and basement aquifers (igneous and metamorphic rocks that underlie sedimentary and volcanic rock sequences); groundwater from aquifers can be extracted using a water well; The World Factbook lists 37 major aquifers across 52 countries; of these, 13 are in Africa, 10 in Asia, 5 in North America, 3 in South America, 4 in Europe, and 2 in Australia; although aquifers can vary in size, the major aquifers listed in The Factbook contain the bulk of the stored volume of groundwater; the fresh water held in these aquifers represents more than 30% of the World's fresh water; in the US, groundwater is primarily used for irrigation and globally, 70% of groundwater withdrawn is used for agriculture; groundwater also supplies almost half of all drinking water worldwide

Population distribution

six of the world's seven continents are widely and permanently inhabited; Asia is easily the most populous continent with about 60% of the world's population (China and India together account for over 35%); Africa comes in second with over 15% of the earth's populace, Europe has about 10%, North America 8%, South America almost 6%, and Oceania less than 1%; the harsh conditions on Antarctica prevent any permanent habitation

Natural hazards

large areas subject to severe weather (tropical cyclones); natural disasters (earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions)

volcanism: volcanism is a fundamental driver and consequence of plate tectonics, the physical process reshaping the Earth's lithosphere; the world is home to more than 1,500 potentially active volcanoes, with over 500 of these having erupted in historical times; an estimated 500 million people live near these volcanoes; associated dangers include lava flows, lahars (mudflows), pyroclastic flows, ash clouds, ash fall, ballistic projectiles, gas emissions, landslides, earthquakes, and tsunamis; in the 1990s, the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, created a list of 16 Decade Volcanoes worthy of special study because of their great potential for destruction: Avachinsky-Koryaksky (Russia), Colima (Mexico), Etna (Italy), Galeras (Colombia), Mauna Loa (United States), Merapi (Indonesia), Nyiragongo (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Rainier (United States), Sakurajima (Japan), Santa Maria (Guatemala), Santorini (Greece), Taal (Philippines), Teide (Spain), Ulawun (Papua New Guinea), Unzen (Japan), Vesuvius (Italy); see second note under "Geography - note"

Geography - note

note 1: the world is now thought to be about 4.55 billion years old, just about one-third of the 13.8-billion-year age estimated for the universe; the earliest widely accepted date for life appearing on earth is 3.48 billion years ago, but this date is conservative and may get pushed back further

note 2: although earthquakes can strike anywhere at any time, the vast majority occur in three large zones of the earth; the world's greatest earthquake belt, the Circum-Pacific Belt (popularly referred to as the Ring of Fire), is the zone of active volcanoes and earthquake epicenters bordering the Pacific Ocean; about 90% of the world's earthquakes (81% of the largest earthquakes) and some 75% of the world's volcanoes occur within the Ring of Fire; the belt extends northward from Chile, along the South American coast, through Central America, Mexico, the western US, southern Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, to Japan, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, island groups in the southwestern Pacific, and New Zealand

the second prominent belt, the Alpide, extends from Java to Sumatra, northward along the mountains of Burma, then eastward through the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, and out into the Atlantic Ocean; it accounts for about 17% of the world's largest earthquakes; the third important belt follows the long Mid-Atlantic Ridge

People and Society

Population

7,772,850,805 (July 2021 est.)

top ten most populous countries (in millions): China 1397.89; India 1339.33; United States 334.99; Indonesia 275.12; Pakistan 238.18; Nigeria 219.47; Brazil 213.45; Bangladesh 164.1; Russia 142.32; Japan 124.69

ten least populous countries: Holy See (Vatican City) 1,000; Saint Pierre and Miquelon 5,321; Montserrat 5,387; Saint Barthelemy 7,116; Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan de Cunha 7,915; Cook Islands 8,327; Nauru 9,770; Tuvalu 11,448; Wallis and Futuna 15,851; Anguilla 18,403

ten most densely populated countries (population per sq km): Macau 22,514; Monaco 15,611; Singapore 8,273; Hong Kong 6,769; Gaza Strip 5,436; Gibraltar 4,216; Bahrain 2,009; Malta 1,458; Bermuda 1,335; Maldives 1,311

ten least densely populated countries (population per sq km): Greenland .027; Falkland Islands .26; Mongolia 2.1; Namibia 3.3; Australia 3.4; Iceland 3.5; Suriname 3.9; Mauritania 4; Libya 4; Guyana 4

Languages

most-spoken language: English 16.5%, Mandarin Chinese 14.6%, Hindi 8.3%, Spanish 7%, French 3.6%, Arabic 3.6%, Bengali 3.4%, Russian 3.4%, Portuguese 3.3%, Indonesian 2.6% (2020 est.)

most-spoken first language: Mandarin Chinese 12.3%, Spanish 6%, English 5.1%, Arabic 5.1%, Hindi 3.5%, Bengali 3.3%, Portuguese 3%, Russian 2.1%, Japanese 1.7%, Punjabi, Western 1.3%, Javanese 1.1% (2018 est.)

note 1: the six UN languages - Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, Russian, and Spanish (Castilian) - are the mother tongue or second language of about 45% of the world's population, and are the official languages in more than half the states in the world; some 400 languages have more than a million first-language speakers (2018)

note 2: all told, there are estimated to be just over 7,115 languages spoken in the world (2020); approximately 80% of these languages are spoken by less than 100,000 people; about 150 languages are spoken by fewer than 10 people; communities that are isolated from each other in mountainous regions often develop multiple languages; Papua New Guinea, for example, boasts about 840 separate languages (2018)

note 3: approximately 2,300 languages are spoken in Asia, 2,140, in Africa, 1,310 in the Pacific, 1,060 in the Americas, and 290 in Europe (2020)

Religions

Christian 31.1%, Muslim 24.9%, Hindu 15.2%, Buddhist 6.6%, folk religions 5.6%, Jewish <1%, other <1%, unaffiliated 15.6% (2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 25.18% (male 1,010,373,278/female 946,624,579)

15-24 years: 15.29% (male 614,046,344/female 574,513,854)

25-54 years: 40.6% (male 1,597,805,095/female 1,557,807,873)

55-64 years: 9.23% (male 351,094,945/female 366,240,730)

65 years and over: 9.69% male 337,244,947/female 415,884,753) (2021 est.)

This is the population pyramid for World. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 53.3

youth dependency ratio: 39

elderly dependency ratio: 14.3

potential support ratio: 7 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 31 years

male: 30.3 years

female: 31.8 years (2020 est.)

Population growth rate

1.03% (2021 est.)

note: this rate results in about 154 net additions to the worldwide population every minute or 2.6 every second

Birth rate

18.1 births/1,000 population (2020 est.)

note: this rate results in about 259 worldwide births per minute or 4.3 births every second

Death rate

7.7 deaths/1,000 population (2020 est.)

note: this rate results in about 108 worldwide deaths per minute or 1.8 deaths every second

Population distribution

six of the world's seven continents are widely and permanently inhabited; Asia is easily the most populous continent with about 60% of the world's population (China and India together account for over 35%); Africa comes in second with over 15% of the earth's populace, Europe has about 10%, North America 8%, South America almost 6%, and Oceania less than 1%; the harsh conditions on Antarctica prevent any permanent habitation

Urbanization

urban population: 56.6% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 1.73% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

ten largest urban agglomerations: Tokyo (Japan) - 37,393,000; New Delhi (India) - 30,291,000; Shanghai (China) - 27,058,000; Sao Paulo (Brazil) - 22,043,000; Mexico City (Mexico) - 21,782,000; Dhaka (Bangladesh) - 21,006,000; Cairo (Egypt) - 20,901,000; Beijing (China) - 20,463,000; Mumbai (India) - 20,411,000;  Osaka (Japan) - 19,165,000 (2020)

ten largest urban agglomerations, by continent:
Africa -
Cairo (Egypt) - 20,485,000; Lagos (Nigeria) - 13,904,000; Kinshasha (DRC) - 13,743,000; Luanda (Angola) - 8,045,000; Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) - 6,368,000; Khartoum (Sudan) - 5,678,000; Johannesburg (South Africa) - 5,635,000; Alexandria (Egypt) - 5,182,000; Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire) - 5,059,000; Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) - 4,592,000

Asia - Tokyo (Japan) - 37,435,000; New Delhi (India) - 29,399,000; Shanghai (China) - 26,317,000; Dhaka (Bangladesh) - 20,284,000; Mumbai (India) - 20,185,000; Beijing (China) - 20,035,000; Osaka (Japan) - 19,223,000; Karachi (Pakistan) - 15,741,000; Chongqing (China) - 15,354,000; Istanbul (Turkey) - 14,968,000

Europe - Moscow (Russia) - 12,476,000; Paris (France) - 10,958,000; London (United Kingdom) - 9,177,000; Madrid (Spain) - 6,559,000; Barcelona (Spain) - 5,541,000, Saint Petersburg (Russia) -  5,427,000; Rome (Italy) - 4,234,000; Berlin (Germany) - 3,557,000; Athens (Greece) - 3,154,000; Milan (Italy) - 3,136,000

North America - Mexico City (Mexico) - 21,672,000; New York-Newark (United States) - 18,805,000; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana (United States) - 12,448,000; Chicago (United States) - 8,862,000; Houston (United States) - 6,245,000; Dallas-Fort Worth (United States) - 6,201,000; Toronto (Canada) - 6,139,000; Miami (United States) - 6,079,000; Philadelphia (United States) - 5,705,000; Atlanta (United States) - 5,689,000

Oceania - Melbourne (Australia) - 4,870,000, Sydney (Australia) - 4,859,000; Brisbane (Australia) - 2,372,000; Perth (Australia) - 2,016,000; Auckland (New Zealand) - 1,582,000; Adelaide (Australia) - 1,328,000; Gold Coast-Tweed Head (Australia) - 687,000; Canberra (Australia) - 452,000; Newcastle-Maitland (Australia) - 447,000; Wellington (New Zealand) - 413,000

South America - Sao Paulo (Brazil) - 21,847,000; Buenos Aires (Argentina) - 15,057,000; Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) - 13,374,000; Bogota (Colombia) - 10,779,000; Lima (Peru) - 10,555,000; Santiago (Chile) - 6,724,000; Belo Horizonte (Brazil) - 6,028,000; Brasilia (Brazil) - 4,559,000; Porto Alegre (Brazil) - 4,115,000; Recife (Brazil) - 4,078,000 (2019)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.07 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.07 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female

total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

211 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 30.8 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 32.8 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 28.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2020 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 70.5 years

male: 68.4 years

female: 72.6 years (2020 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.42 children born/woman (2020 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 96.5% of population

rural: 84.7% of population

total: 91.1% of population

unimproved: urban: 3.5% of population

rural: 15.3% of population

total: 8.9% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 82.3% of population

rural: 50.5% of population

total: 67.7% of population

unimproved: urban: 17.7% of population

rural: 49.5% of population

total: 32.3% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

680,000 (2020 est.)

Major infectious diseases

note: widespread ongoing transmission of a respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is occurring globally; older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions are at increased risk for severe disease; some health care systems are becoming overwhelmed and there may be limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas; many countries are implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice; US residents may have difficulty returning to the United States; as of 6 October 2021, 235,673,032 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,814,651 deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization; as of 6 October 2021, 46.1% of the World population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 86.3%

male: 89.8%

female: 82.8% (2018)

note: more than three-quarters of the world's 750 million illiterate adults are found in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa; of all the illiterate adults in the world, almost two-thirds are women (2016)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 12 years

male: 12 years

female: 12 years (2019)

Environment

Environment - current issues

large areas subject to overpopulation, industrial disasters, pollution (air, water, acid rain, toxic substances), loss of vegetation (overgrazing, deforestation, desertification), loss of biodiversity; soil degradation, soil depletion, erosion; ozone layer depletion; waste disposal; global warming becoming a greater concern

Climate

a wide equatorial band of hot and humid tropical climates, bordered north and south by subtropical temperate zones that separate two large areas of cold and dry polar climates

Ten Driest Places on Earth (Average Annual Precipitation): McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica 0 mm (0 in)
Arica, Chile 0.76 mm (0.03 in)
Al Kufrah, Libya 0.86 mm (0.03 in)
Aswan, Egypt 0.86 mm (0.03 in)
Luxor, Egypt 0.86 mm (0.03 in)
Ica, Peru 2.29 mm (0.09 in)
Wadi Halfa, Sudan 2.45 mm (0.1 in)
Iquique, Chile 5.08 mm (0.2 in)
Pelican Point, Namibia 8.13 mm (0.32 in)
El Arab (Aoulef), Algeria 12.19 mm (0.48 in)

Ten Wettest Places on Earth (Average Annual Precipitation): Mawsynram, India 11,871 mm (467.4 in)
Cherrapunji, India 11,777 mm (463.7 in)
Tutunendo, Colombia 11,770 mm (463.4 in)
Cropp River, New Zealand 11,516 mm (453.4 in)
San Antonia de Ureca, Equatorial Guinea 10,450 mm (411.4 in)
Debundsha, Cameroon 10,299 mm (405.5 in)
Big Bog, US (Hawaii) 10,272 mm (404.4 in)
Mt Waialeale, US (Hawaii) 9,763 mm (384.4 in)
Kukui, US (Hawaii) 9,293 mm (365.9 in)
Emeishan, China 8,169 mm (321.6 in)

Ten Coldest Places on Earth (Lowest Average Monthly Temperature): Verkhoyansk, Russia (Siberia) -47°C (-53°F) January
Oymyakon, Russia (Siberia) -46°C (-52°F) January
Eureka, Canada -38.4°C (-37.1°F) February
Isachsen, Canada -36°C (-32.8°F) February
Alert, Canada -34°C (-28°F) February
Kap Morris Jesup, Greenland -34°C (-29°F) March
Cornwallis Island, Canada -33.5°C (-28.3°F) February
Cambridge Bay, Canada -33.5°C (28.3°F) February
Ilirnej, Russia -33°C (-28°F) January
Resolute, Canada -33°C (-27.4°F) February

Ten Hottest Places on Earth (Highest Average Monthly Temperature): Death Valley, US (California) 39°C (101°F) July
Iranshahr, Iran 38.3°C (100.9°F) June
Ouallene, Algeria 38°C (100.4°F) July
Kuwait City, Kuwait 37.7°C (100°F) July
Medina, Saudi Arabia 36°C (97°F) July
Buckeye, US (Arizona) 34°C (93°F) July
Jazan, Saudi Arabia 33°C (91°F) June
Al Kufrah, Libya 31°C (87°F) July
Alice Springs, Australia 29°C (84°F) January
Tamanrasset, Algeria 29°C (84°F) June

Urbanization

urban population: 56.6% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 1.73% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major infectious diseases

note: widespread ongoing transmission of a respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is occurring globally; older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions are at increased risk for severe disease; some health care systems are becoming overwhelmed and there may be limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas; many countries are implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice; US residents may have difficulty returning to the United States; as of 6 October 2021, 235,673,032 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,814,651 deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization; as of 6 October 2021, 46.1% of the World population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Major watersheds (area sq km)

summary statement: a watershed is a drainage basin on an area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water; oceans ultimately take in the drainage from 83% of all land area; the remaining 17% of the land drains into internal (endorheic) basins, e.g., the Caspian Sea; The World Factbook lists 51 different watersheds across 102 countries; of these, 18 are in Asia, 9 in Europe, 9 in Africa, 8 in North and Central America, 5 in South America, and 2 in Australia; all watersheds with an area of at least 500,000 sq km have been included along with a number of smaller, regionally significant watersheds; together, these watersheds represent the surface hydrology water flows that are the World's primary sources of fresh water for individual consumption, industry, and agriculture

Major aquifers

summary statement: aquifers are underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock formations; they include alluvial formations such as unconsolidated sand and gravel aquifers, sedimentary rock formations of sandstone and karst (carbonate rocks such as limestone) aquifers, as well as volcanic aquifers, and basement aquifers (igneous and metamorphic rocks that underlie sedimentary and volcanic rock sequences); groundwater from aquifers can be extracted using a water well; The World Factbook lists 37 major aquifers across 52 countries; of these, 13 are in Africa, 10 in Asia, 5 in North America, 3 in South America, 4 in Europe, and 2 in Australia; although aquifers can vary in size, the major aquifers listed in The Factbook contain the bulk of the stored volume of groundwater; the fresh water held in these aquifers represents more than 30% of the World's fresh water; in the US, groundwater is primarily used for irrigation and globally, 70% of groundwater withdrawn is used for agriculture; groundwater also supplies almost half of all drinking water worldwide

Total renewable water resources

53,789.29 cubic meters (2011)

Government

Country name

note: countries with names connected to animals include: Albania "Land of the Eagles," Anguilla (the name means "eel"), Bhutan "Land of the Thunder Dragon," Cameroon (the name derives from "prawns"), Cayman Islands (named after the caiman, a marine crocodile), Faroe Islands (from Old Norse meaning "sheep"), Georgia "Land of the Wolves," Italy "Land of Young Cattle," Kosovo "Field of Blackbirds," Sierra Leone "Lion Mountains," Singapore "Lion City"

Capital

time difference: there are 21 World entities (20 countries and 1 dependency) with multiple time zones: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, France, Greenland (part of the Danish Kingdom), Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Mexico, Micronesia, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Russia, Spain, United States

note 1: in some instances, the time zones pertain to portions of a country that lie overseas

note 2: in 1851, the British set their prime meridian (0° longitude) through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England; this meridian became the international standard in 1884 and thus the basis for the standard time zones of the world; today, GMT is officially known as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and is also referred to as "Zulu time"; UTC is the basis for all civil time, with the world divided into time zones expressed as positive or negative differences from UTC

note 3: each time zone is based on 15° starting from the prime meridian; in theory, there are 24 time zones based on the solar day, but there are now upward of 40 because of fractional hour offsets that adjust for various political and physical geographic realities; see the Standard Time Zones of the World map included with the Reference Maps

daylight saving time: some 67 countries - including most of the world's leading industrialized nations - use daylight savings time (DST) in at least a portion of the country; China, Japan, India, and Russia are major industrialized countries that do not use DST; Asia and Africa generally do not observe DST and it is generally not observed near the equator, where sunrise and sunset times do not vary enough to justify it; some countries observe DST only in certain regions; for example, only southeastern Australia observes it; in fact, only a minority of the world's population - about 20% - uses DST

Administrative divisions

195 countries, 71 dependent areas and other entities

Legal system

the legal systems of nearly all countries are generally modeled upon elements of five main types: civil law (including French law, the Napoleonic Code, Roman law, Roman-Dutch law, and Spanish law); common law (including English and US law); customary law; mixed or pluralistic law; and religious law (including Islamic sharia law); an additional type of legal system - international law - governs the conduct of independent nations in their relationships with one another

International law organization participation

all members of the UN are parties to the statute that established the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or World Court; states parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICCt) are those countries that have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the Court; as of May 2019, a total of 122 countries have accepted jurisdiction of the ICCt (see Appendix B for a clarification on the differing mandates of the ICJ and ICCt)

Executive branch

chief of state: there are 27 countries with royal families in the world, most are in Asia (13) and Europe (10), three are in Africa, and one in Oceania; monarchies by continent are as follows: Asia (Bahrain, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, United Arab Emirates); Europe (Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom); Africa (Eswatini, Lesotho, Morocco); Oceania (Tonga); note that Andorra and the Holy See (Vatican) are also monarchies of a sort, but they are not ruled by royal houses; Andorra has two co-princes (the president of France and the bishop of Urgell) and the Holy See is ruled by an elected pope; note too that the sovereign of Great Britain is also the monarch for many of the countries (including Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand) that make up the Commonwealth

Legislative branch

there are 230 political entities with legislative bodies; of these 144 are unicameral (a single “house”) and 86 are bicameral (both upper and lower houses); note - while there are 195 countries in the world, 35 territories, possessions, or other special administrative units also have their own governing bodies

Flag description

while a "World" flag does not exist, the flag of the United Nations (UN) - adopted on 7 December 1946 - has been used on occasion to represent the entire planet; technically, however, it only represents the international organization itself; the flag displays the official emblem of the UN in white on a blue background; the emblem design shows a map of the world in an azimuthal equidistant projection centered on the North Pole, the image is flanked by two olive branches crossed below; blue was selected as the color to represent peace, in contrast to red usually associated with war; the map projection chosen includes all of the continents except Antarctica


note: the flags of 12 nations: Austria, Botswana, Georgia, Jamaica, Japan, Laos, Latvia, Micronesia, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Switzerland, and Thailand have no top or bottom and may be flown with either long edge on top without any notice being taken

UN Flag

National anthem

name: virtually every country has a national anthem; most (but not all) anthems have lyrics, which are usually in the national or most common language of the country; states with more than one national language may offer several versions of their anthem

note: the world's oldest national anthem is the "Het Wilhelmus" (The William) of the Netherlands, which dates to the 17th century; the first national anthem to be officially adopted (1795) was "La Marseillaise" (The Song of Marseille) of France; Japan claims to have the world's shortest national anthem, entitled "Kimigayo" (The Emperor's Reign), it consists of 11 measures of music (the lyrics are also the world's oldest, dating to the 10th century or earlier); the world's longest national anthem is that of Greece, "Ymnos eis tin Eleftherian" (Hymn to Liberty) with 158 stanzas - only two of which are used; both Denmark and New Zealand have two official national anthems

Economy

Economic overview

The international financial crisis of 2008-09 led to the first downturn in global output since 1946 and presented the world with a major new challenge: determining what mix of fiscal and monetary policies to follow to restore growth and jobs, while keeping inflation and debt under control. Financial stabilization and stimulus programs that started in 2009-11, combined with lower tax revenues in 2009-10, required most countries to run large budget deficits. Treasuries issued new public debt - totaling $9.1 trillion since 2008 - to pay for the additional expenditures. To keep interest rates low, most central banks monetized that debt, injecting large sums of money into their economies - between December 2008 and December 2013 the global money supply increased by more than 35%. Governments are now faced with the difficult task of spurring current growth and employment without saddling their economies with so much debt that they sacrifice long-term growth and financial stability. When economic activity picks up, central banks will confront the difficult task of containing inflation without raising interest rates so high they snuff out further growth.

Fiscal and monetary data for 2013 are currently available for 180 countries, which together account for 98.5% of world GDP. Of the 180 countries, 82 pursued unequivocally expansionary policies, boosting government spending while also expanding their money supply relatively rapidly - faster than the world average of 3.1%; 28 followed restrictive fiscal and monetary policies, reducing government spending and holding money growth to less than the 3.1% average; and the remaining 70 followed a mix of counterbalancing fiscal and monetary policies, either reducing government spending while accelerating money growth, or boosting spending while curtailing money growth.

(For more information, see attached spreadsheet.)

In 2013, for many countries the drive for fiscal austerity that began in 2011 abated. While 5 out of 6 countries slowed spending in 2012, only 1 in 2 countries slowed spending in 2013. About 1 in 3 countries actually lowered the level of their expenditures. The global growth rate for government expenditures increased from 1.6% in 2012 to 5.1% in 2013, after falling from a 10.1% growth rate in 2011. On the other hand, nearly 2 out of 3 central banks tightened monetary policy in 2013, decelerating the rate of growth of their money supply, compared with only 1 out of 3 in 2012. Roughly 1 of 4 central banks actually withdrew money from circulation, an increase from 1 out of 7 in 2012. Growth of the global money supply, as measured by the narrowly defined M1, slowed from 8.7% in 2009 and 10.4% in 2010 to 5.2% in 2011, 4.6% in 2012, and 3.1% in 2013. Several notable shifts occurred in 2013. By cutting government expenditures and expanding money supplies, the US and Canada moved against the trend in the rest of the world. France reversed course completely. Rather than reducing expenditures and money as it had in 2012, it expanded both. Germany reversed its fiscal policy, sharply expanding federal spending, while continuing to grow the money supply. South Korea shifted monetary policy into high gear, while maintaining a strongly expansionary fiscal policy. Japan, however, continued to pursue austere fiscal and monetary policies.

Austere economic policies have significantly affected economic performance. The global budget deficit narrowed to roughly $2.7 trillion in 2012 and $2.1 trillion in 2013, or 3.8% and 2.5% of World GDP, respectively. But growth of the world economy slipped from 5.1% in 2010 and 3.7% in 2011, to just 3.1% in 2012, and 2.9% in 2013.

Countries with expansionary fiscal and monetary policies achieved significantly higher rates of growth, higher growth of tax revenues, and greater success reducing the public debt burden than those countries that chose contractionary policies. In 2013, the 82 countries that followed a pro-growth approach achieved a median GDP growth rate of 4.7%, compared to 1.7% for the 28 countries with restrictive fiscal and monetary policies, a difference of 3 percentage points. Among the 82, China grew 7.7%, Philippines 6.8%, Malaysia 4.7%, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia 3.6%, Argentina 3.5%, South Korea 2.8%, and Russia 1.3%, while among the 28, Brazil grew 2.3%, Japan 2.0%, South Africa 2.0%, Netherlands -0.8%, Croatia -1.0%, Iran -1.5%, Portugal -1.8%, Greece -3.8%, and Cyprus -8.7%.

Faster GDP growth and lower unemployment rates translated into increased tax revenues and a less cumbersome debt burden. Revenues for the 82 expansionary countries grew at a median rate of 10.7%, whereas tax revenues fell at a median rate of 6.8% for the 28 countries that chose austere economic policies. Budget balances improved for about three-quarters of the 28, but, for most, debt grew faster than GDP, and the median level of their public debt as a share of GDP increased 9.1 percentage points, to 59.2%. On the other hand, budget balances deteriorated for most of the 82 pro-growth countries, but GDP growth outpaced increases in debt, and the median level of public debt as a share of GDP increased just 1.9%, to 39.8%.

The world recession has suppressed inflation rates - world inflation declined 1.0 percentage point in 2012 to about 4.1% and 0.2 percentage point to 3.9% in 2013. In 2013 the median inflation rate for the 82 pro-growth countries was 1.3 percentage points higher than that for the countries that followed more austere fiscal and monetary policies. Overall, the latter countries also improved their current account balances by shedding imports; as a result, current account balances deteriorated for most of the countries that pursued pro-growth policies. Slow growth of world income continued to hold import demand in check and crude oil prices fell. Consequently, the dollar value of world trade grew just 1.3% in 2013.

Beyond the current global slowdown, the world faces several long standing economic challenges. The addition of 80 million people each year to an already overcrowded globe is exacerbating the problems of pollution, waste-disposal, epidemics, water-shortages, famine, over-fishing of oceans, deforestation, desertification, and depletion of non-renewable resources. The nation-state, as a bedrock economic-political institution, is steadily losing control over international flows of people, goods, services, funds, and technology. The introduction of the euro as the common currency of much of Western Europe in January 1999, while paving the way for an integrated economic powerhouse, has created economic risks because the participating nations have varying income levels and growth rates, and hence, require a different mix of monetary and fiscal policies. Governments, especially in Western Europe, face the difficult political problem of channeling resources away from welfare programs in order to increase investment and strengthen incentives to seek employment. Because of their own internal problems and priorities, the industrialized countries are unable to devote sufficient resources to deal effectively with the poorer areas of the world, which, at least from an economic point of view, are becoming further marginalized. The terrorist attacks on the US on 11 September 2001 accentuated a growing risk to global prosperity - the diversion of resources away from capital investments to counter-terrorism programs.

Despite these vexing problems, the world economy also shows great promise. Technology has made possible further advances in a wide range of fields, from agriculture, to medicine, alternative energy, metallurgy, and transportation. Improved global communications have greatly reduced the costs of international trade, helping the world gain from the international division of labor, raise living standards, and reduce income disparities among nations. Much of the resilience of the world economy in the aftermath of the financial crisis resulted from government and central bank leaders around the globe working in concert to stem the financial onslaught, knowing well the lessons of past economic failures.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$127.8 trillion (2017 est.)

$123.3 trillion (2016 est.)

$119.5 trillion (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

Real GDP growth rate

3.7% (2017 est.)

3.2% (2016 est.)

3.3% (2014 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$17,500 (2017 est.)

$17,000 (2016 est.)

$16,800 (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$80.27 trillion SGWP (gross world product) (2017 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

6.4% (2017 est.)

3.7% (2016 est.)

developed countries: 1.9% (2017 est.) 0.9% (2016 est.)

developing countries: 8.8% (2017 est.) 3.7% (2016 est.)

note: the above estimates are weighted averages; inflation in developed countries is 0% to 4% typically, in developing countries, 4% to 10% typically; national inflation rates vary widely in individual cases; inflation rates have declined for most countries for the last several years, held in check by increasing international competition from several low wage countries and by soft demand due to the world financial crisis

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 6.4% (2017 est.)

industry: 30% (2017 est.)

services: 63% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 56.4% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 16.1% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 25.7% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 1.4% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 28.8% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -28.3% (2017 est.)

Industries

dominated by the onrush of technology, especially in computers, robotics, telecommunications, and medicines and medical equipment; most of these advances take place in OECD nations; only a small portion of non-OECD countries have succeeded in rapidly adjusting to these technological forces; the accelerated development of new technologies is complicating already grim environmental problems

Labor force

3.432 billion (2017 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 31%

industry: 23.5%

services: 45.5% (2014 est.)

Unemployment rate

7.7% (2017 est.)

7.5% (2016 est.)

note: combined unemployment and underemployment in many non-industrialized countries; developed countries typically 4%-12% unemployment (2007 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.6%

highest 10%: 30.2% (2008 est.)

Budget

revenues: 21.68 trillion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 23.81 trillion (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-3% (of GDP) (2016 est.)

Public debt

67.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

67.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

26.7% (of GDP) (2016 est.)

Exports

$17.31 trillion (2017 est.)

$15.82 trillion (2016 est.)

Exports - commodities

the whole range of industrial and agricultural goods and services

top ten - share of world trade: 14.8 electrical machinery, including computers; 14.4 mineral fuels, including oil, coal, gas, and refined products; 14.2 nuclear reactors, boilers, and parts; 8.9 cars, trucks, and buses; 3.5 scientific and precision instruments; 3.4 plastics; 2.7 iron and steel; 2.6 organic chemicals; 2.6 pharmaceutical products; 1.9 diamonds, pearls, and precious stones (2007 est.)

Imports

$20.01 trillion (2018 est.)

$16.02 trillion (2017 est.)

Imports - commodities

the whole range of industrial and agricultural goods and services

top ten - share of world trade: see listing for exports

Debt - external

$76.56 trillion (31 December 2017 est.)

$75.09 trillion (31 December 2016 est.)

note: this figure is the sum total of all countries' external debt, both public and private

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 90% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 96% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 85% (2019)

Electricity - production

23.65 trillion kWh (2015 est.)

Electricity - consumption

21.78 trillion kWh (2015 est.)

Electricity - exports

696.1 billion kWh (2016)

Electricity - imports

721.9 billion kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

63% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

6% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

18% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

14% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)

Crude oil - production

80.77 million bbl/day (2016 est.)

Crude oil - exports

43.57 million bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - imports

44.58 million bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

1.665 trillion bbl (1 January 2017 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production

88.4 million bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

96.26 million bbl/day (2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

29.66 million bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

28.62 million bbl/day (2014 est.)

Natural gas - production

3.481 trillion cu m (2015 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

3.477 trillion cu m (2015 est.)

Natural gas - exports

1.156 trillion cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

1.496 trillion cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

196.1 trillion cu m (1 January 2016 est.)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 917,318,375

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 12 (2017 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 7,876,696,447

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 103.4 (2017 est.)

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) is tied to economic growth; business, trade, and foreign direct investment are all based on effective sources of ICT, and development of ICT flourishes with a vigorous economy, open trade, and sound regulation; some 2020 estimates point to a digital economy worth $11.5 trillion globally, equivalent to 15.5% of global GDP (with ICT growing 2.5 times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years);  2020 reports indicate about 7.7 billion global mobile broadband subscriptions, rising from 3.3 billion in five years, and over 1.1 billion fixed broadband subscribers, up from 830 million in 2015

international: economically, telecommunications has been and continues to be one of the world’s fastest growing markets; countries and firms are transitioning from analog to digital broadcasting, increasing automation capabilities and applications, adopting more high-definition technologies, and converting to digital channels

broadcasting typically refers to transmission of information to all devices in a network without any acknowledgment by the receivers; data processing parts and accessories includes many supporting elements to broadcasting equipment, such as monitors, keyboards, printers, etc.

in terms of market size, broadcasting equipment constituted $413 billion in global trade, making it the fifth most traded commodity in 2019; similarly, data processing equipment equaled $230 billion, the eighth most traded commodity globally; the chief exporters and importers of telecommunications commodities remain largely the same: 1) China leads in both broadcasting and data processing equipment exports, $208 billion and $81.5 billion respectively and 2) the United States, conversely, receives the most of both commodities, importing $81.1 billion in broadcasting equipment and $38.3 billion in data processing equipment in 2019

Internet users

total: 3.96 billion

percent of population: 51% (2019)

top ten countries by Internet usage (in millions): 730.7 China; 374.3 India; 246.8 United States; 122.8 Brazil; 116.6 Japan; 108.8 Russia; 73.3 Mexico; 72.3 Germany; 65.5 Indonesia; 61 United Kingdom (2017)

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 1,132,215,546

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 14.8 (2017)

Communications - note

note 1: data centers consist of a dedicated space within a building or a group of buildings used to house computing resources and other components, such as telecommunications and storage systems; the ongoing worldwide boom in data generation is responsible for the mushrooming of data centers; the three largest data center facilities by area as of the first half of 2021 are:
 
no. 1. - the China Telecom data center located in the Inner Mongolia Information Park, Hohhot, China, reportedly covers 1 million sq m (10.7 million sq ft); the largest Internet data center in the world, it has over 50% market share in the Chinese data center market, with an extensive network of over 400 data centers located in prime regions in mainland China and overseas markets

no. 2. - the China Mobile data center located in the Inner Mongolia Information Park, Hohhot, China, covers 720,000 sq m (7.7 million sq ft); it is one of the world's biggest cloud computing data centers

no. 3. - The Citadel data center owned by US-based Switch, in Tahoe Reno, Nevada, covers 670,000 sq m (7.2 million sq ft); called the world’s largest technology ecosystem, the facility runs on 100% renewable (solar and wind) energy

note 2: of the global population, it is estimated that 51% (3.96 billion people) were using the Internet by the end of 2019

Transportation

Airports

total: 41,820 (2020)

top ten by passengers (2020 preliminary): Guangzhou (CAN) 43,767,558; Atlanta (ATL) - 42,918,685; Chengdu (CTU) 40,741,509; Dallas/Fort Worth, TX (DFW) 39,364,990; Shenzhen (SZX) 37,916,054; Beijing (PEK) - 34,513,827; Denver, CO (DEN) 33,741,129; Kunming (KMG) 32,990,805; Shanghai (PVG) 31,165,641; Xi'an (XIY)  31,073,924 (2020 preliminary)

top ten by passengers (2019): Atlanta (ATL) 110,531,300; Beijing (PEK) - 100,011,438; Los Angeles, CA (LAX) 88,068,013; Dubai, UAE (DXB) 86,396,757; Tokyo (HND) 85,505,054; Chicago (ORD) 84,649,115; London (LHR) 80,888,305; Shanghai (PVG) 76,153,455; Paris (CDG) 76,150,009; Dallas/Fort Worth, TX (DFW) 75,066,956; note - 2019 numbers included to allow for a comparison with the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on international air travel in 2020

top ten by cargo (metric tons): Memphis, TN (MEM) - 4,613,431; Hong Kong (HKG) - 4,468,089; Shanghai (PVG) - 3,686,627; Anchorage, AK (ANC) - 3,157,682; Louisville, KY (SDF) - 2,917,243; Incheon (ICN) - 2,822,370; Taipei (TPE) - 2,342,714; Los Angeles, CA (LAX) 2,229,476; Doha, Qatar (DOH) 2,175,292; Miami, FL (MIA) 2,137,699 (2020 preliminary)

Heliports

6,524 (2013)

Railways

total: 1,148,186 km (2013)

Roadways

total: 64,285,009 km (2013)

Waterways

2,293,412 km (2017)

top ten longest rivers: Nile (Africa) 6,693 km; Amazon (South America) 6,436 km; Mississippi-Missouri (North America) 6,238 km; Yenisey-Angara (Asia) 5,981 km; Ob-Irtysh (Asia) 5,569 km; Yangtze (Asia) 5,525 km; Yellow (Asia) 4,671 km; Amur (Asia) 4,352 km; Lena (Asia) 4,345 km; Congo (Africa) 4,344 km

note 1: rivers are not necessarily navigable along the entire length; if measured by volume, the Amazon is the largest river in the world, responsible for about 20% of the Earth's freshwater entering the ocean

note 2: there are 20 countries without rivers: 3 in Africa (Comoros, Djibouti, Libya), 1 in the Americas (Bahamas), 8 in Asia (Bahrain, Kuwait, Maldives, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen), 3 in Europe (Malta, Monaco, Holy See), 5 in Oceania (Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Tonga, Tuvalu); these countries also do not have natural lakes

top ten largest natural lakes (by surface area): Caspian Sea (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan) 372,960 sq km; Lake Superior (Canada, United States) 82,414 sq km; Lake Victoria (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda) 69,490 sq km; Lake Huron (Canada, United States) 59,596 sq km; Lake Michigan (United States) 57,441 sq km; Lake Tanganyika (Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Zambia) 32,890 sq km; Great Bear Lake (Canada) 31,800 sq km; Lake Baikal (Russia) 31,494 sq km; Lake Nyasa (Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania) 30,044 sq km; Great Slave Lake (Canada) 28,400 sq km

note 1: the areas of the lakes are subject to seasonal variation; only the Caspian Sea is saline, the rest are fresh water

note 2: Lakes Huron and Michigan are technically a single lake because the flow of water between the Straits of Mackinac that connects the two lakes keeps their water levels at near-equilibrium; combined, Lake Huron-Michigan is the largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world

note 3: the deepest lake in the world (1,620 m), and also the largest freshwater lake by volume (23,600 cu km), is Lake Baikal in Russia

Merchant marine

total: 98,140

by type: bulk carrier 11,965, container ship 5,371, general cargo 19,116, oil tanker 11,201, other 50,487 (2020)

Ports and terminals

top twenty container ports as measured by Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) throughput: Shanghai (China) - 43,303,000; Singapore (Singapore) - 37,195,636; Ningbo (China) - 27,530,000; Shenzhen (China) - 25,770,000; Guangzhou (China) - 23,236,200; Busan (South Korea) - 21,992,001; Qingdao (China) - 21,010,000; Hong Kong (China) - 18,361,000; Tianjin (China) - 17,264,000; Rotterdam (Netherlands) - 14,810,804; Dubai (UAE) - 14,111,000; Port Kelang (Malaysia) - 13,580,717; Antwerp (Belgium) - 11,860,204; Xiamen (China) - 11,122,200; Kaohsiung (Taiwan) - 10,428,634; Los Angeles (US) - 9,337,632; Hamburg (Germany) - 9,274,215; Tanjung Pelepas (Malaysia) - 9,100,000; Dalian (China) - 8,760,000; Laem Chabang (Thailand) - 8,106,928 (2019)

Military and Security

Military expenditures

2.21% of GDP (2019 est.)

2.17% of GDP (2018 est.)

2.19% of GDP (2017 est.)

2.24% of GDP (2016 est.)

2.27% of GDP (2015 est.)

Military deployments

as of mid-2021, the UN had about 76,000 peacekeepers deployed worldwide

Maritime threats

the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reports that 2020 saw an increase in global pirate activities; in 2020, pirates attacked a total of 195 ships worldwide including boarding 161 ships, hijacking three ships, and firing on 11; this activity is an increase from 162 incidents in 2019; in 2020, the number of hostages taken was 34, however, the number of seafarers kidnapped for ransom increased to 135 compared with 44 in 2019, with nearly all taken off West Africa

the EU naval mission, Operation ATALANTA, continues its operations in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean through 2022; naval units from Japan, India, and China also operate in conjunction with EU forces; China has established a logistical base in Djibouti to support its deployed naval units in the Horn of Africa

the Horn of Africa saw no pirate activities in 2020, down from two attacks in 2019; the decrease in successful pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa since the peak in 2007 was due, in part, to anti-piracy operations by international naval forces, the hardening of vessels, and the increased use of armed security teams aboard merchant ships; despite these preventative measures, the assessed risk remains high

West Africa remains the most dangerous area for piracy in the world with 98 attacks in 2020 compared to 132 in 2019, including all three hijackings and 9 of 11 ships fired upon; Nigerian pirates are very aggressive, operating as far as 200 nm offshore and kidnapping 130 mariners in 22 incidents accounting for over 95% of crew kidnappings world-wide; attacks against ships underway in the Singapore Straits continued to increase to 23 incidents in 2020; there were 26 attacks in Indonesian waters in 2020 compared to 25 in 2019, primarily to ships anchored or berthed; the majority of global attacks against shipping have occurred in the offshore waters of five countries - Nigeria, Indonesia, Philippines, Venezuela, and Bangladesh (2021)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

stretching over some 280,000 km, the world's 325 international land boundaries separate 195 independent states and 70 dependencies, areas of special sovereignty, and other miscellaneous entities; ethnicity, culture, race, religion, and language have divided states into separate political entities as much as history, physical terrain, political fiat, or conquest, resulting in sometimes arbitrary and imposed boundaries; most maritime states have claimed limits that include territorial seas and exclusive economic zones; overlapping limits due to adjacent or opposite coasts create the potential for 430 bilateral maritime boundaries of which 209 have agreements that include contiguous and non-contiguous segments; boundary, borderland/resource, and territorial disputes vary in intensity from managed or dormant to violent or militarized; undemarcated, indefinite, porous, and unmanaged boundaries tend to encourage illegal cross-border activities, uncontrolled migration, and confrontation; territorial disputes may evolve from historical and/or cultural claims, or they may be brought on by resource competition; ethnic and cultural clashes continue to be responsible for much of the territorial fragmentation and internal displacement of the estimated 45.7 million people and cross-border displacements of approximately 30.2 million refugees and asylum seekers around the world as of yearend 2019; approximately 317,200 refugees were repatriated during 2019; other sources of contention include access to water and mineral (especially hydrocarbon) resources, fisheries, and arable land; armed conflict prevails not so much between the uniformed armed forces of independent states as between stateless armed entities that detract from the sustenance and welfare of local populations, leaving the community of nations to cope with resultant refugees, hunger, disease, impoverishment, and environmental degradation

Refugees and internally displaced persons

the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that as of year-end 2020 there were 82.4 million people forcibly displaced worldwide; this includes 48 million conflict IDPs, 26.4 million refugees, 4.1 million asylum seekers, and 3.9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad; the UNHCR estimates there are currently at least 10 million stateless persons

Trafficking in persons

current situation: approximately 800,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked annually across national borders, not including millions trafficked within their own countries; at least 80% of the victims are female and up to 50% are minors; 75% of all victims are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation; almost two-thirds of the global victims are trafficked intra-regionally within East Asia and the Pacific (260,000 to 280,000 people) and Europe and Eurasia (170,000 to 210,000 people)

Tier 2 Watch List:  (44 countries) Armenia, Aruba, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia

Tier 3:  (19 countries) Afghanistan, Algeria, Belarus, Burma, Burundi, China, Comoros, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Lesotho, Nicaragua, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Russia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Venezuela (2020)

Illicit drugs

cocaine: worldwide coca leaf cultivation in 2013 likely amounted to 165,000 hectares, assuming a stable crop in Bolivia; Colombia produced slightly less than half of the worldwide crop, followed by Peru and Bolivia; potential pure cocaine production increased 7% to 640 metric tons in 2013; Colombia conducts an aggressive coca eradication campaign, Peru has increased its eradication efforts, but remains hesitant to eradicate coca in key growing areas;

opiates: worldwide illicit opium poppy cultivation increased in 2013, with potential opium production reaching 6,800 metric tons; Afghanistan is world's primary opium producer, accounting for 82% of the global supply; Southeast Asia was responsible for 12% of global opium; Pakistan produced 3% of global opium; Latin America produced 4% of global opium, and most was refined into heroin destined for the US market (2015)