Sovereign state

See all data and research on:

What you should know about this indicator

Gleditsch and Ward consider a country a sovereign state if its administration of a territory is relatively autonomous and it is considered independent by local actors and other states. They discuss many cases here:

Sovereign state
The country is identified as a sovereign state by Gleditsch and Ward dataset.
Gleditsch and Ward (2007) – with minor processing by Our World in Data
Last updated
October 1, 2023
Next expected update
September 2028
Date range

Sources and processing

This data is based on the following sources

We examine the criteria for membership in the international system as applied in the widely employed system membership list maintained by the Correlates of War Project. Some problems with existing classifications are illustrated and some analytical and empirical consequences of these problems are detailed. Using updated criteria and information, we develop a revised and updated list of the composition of the international system of nation state actors in world politics from the Congress of Vienna to the present.

Retrieved on
September 22, 2023
This is the citation of the original data obtained from the source, prior to any processing or adaptation by Our World in Data. To cite data downloaded from this page, please use the suggested citation given in Reuse This Work below.
Gleditsch, Kristian S. & Michael D. Ward. 1999. "Interstate System Membership: A Revised List of the Independent States since 1816." International Interactions 25: 393-413.

How we process data at Our World in Data

All data and visualizations on Our World in Data rely on data sourced from one or several original data providers. Preparing this original data involves several processing steps. Depending on the data, this can include standardizing country names and world region definitions, converting units, calculating derived indicators such as per capita measures, as well as adding or adapting metadata such as the name or the description given to an indicator.

At the link below you can find a detailed description of the structure of our data pipeline, including links to all the code used to prepare data across Our World in Data.

Read about our data pipeline
Notes on our processing step for this indicator

We use the list of independent states and microstates from Gleditsch and Ward. We assign each country to a region based on the mapping (using GW codes):

  • Americas: 2-199
  • Europe: 200-399
  • Africa: 400-626
  • Middle East: 630-699
  • Asia and Oceania: 700-999

Reuse this work

  • All data produced by third-party providers and made available by Our World in Data are subject to the license terms from the original providers. Our work would not be possible without the data providers we rely on, so we ask you to always cite them appropriately (see below). This is crucial to allow data providers to continue doing their work, enhancing, maintaining and updating valuable data.
  • All data, visualizations, and code produced by Our World in Data are completely open access under the Creative Commons BY license. You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce these in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited.


How to cite this page

To cite this page overall, including any descriptions, FAQs or explanations of the data authored by Our World in Data, please use the following citation:

“Data Page: Sovereign state”, part of the following publication: Bastian Herre, Pablo Arriagada and Max Roser (2023) - “State Capacity”. Data adapted from Gleditsch and Ward. Retrieved from [online resource]
How to cite this data

In-line citationIf you have limited space (e.g. in data visualizations), you can use this abbreviated in-line citation:

Gleditsch and Ward (2007) – with minor processing by Our World in Data

Full citation

Gleditsch and Ward (2007) – with minor processing by Our World in Data. “Sovereign state” [dataset]. Gleditsch and Ward, “List of independent states 3.2” [original data]. Retrieved July 12, 2024 from