A sovereign state, in international law, is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states.It is also normally understood that a sovereign state is neither dependent on nor subjected to any other power or state.
According to the declarative theory of statehood, a sovereign state can exist without being recognised by other sovereign states.Unrecognised states will often find it difficult to exercise full treaty-making powers or engage in diplomatic relations with other sovereign states.
Westphalian sovereignty is the concept of nation-state sovereignty based on territoriality and the absence of a role for external agents in domestic structures. It is an international system of states, multinational corporations, and organizations that began with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
Sovereignty is a term that is frequently misused.Up until the 19th century, the radicalised concept of a "standard of civilization" was routinely deployed to determine that certain people in the world were "uncivilized", and lacking organised societies. That position was reflected and constituted in the notion that their "sovereignty" was either completely lacking or at least of an inferior character when compared to that of the "civilized" people." Lassa Oppenheim said, "There exists perhaps no conception the meaning of which is more controversial than that of sovereignty. It is an indisputable fact that this conception, from the moment when it was introduced into political science until the present day, has never had a meaning which was universally agreed upon." In the opinion of H. V. Evatt of the High Court of Australia, "sovereignty is neither a question of fact, nor a question of law, but a question that does not arise at all."
Sovereignty has taken on a different meaning with the development of the principle of self-determination and the prohibition against the threat or use of force as jus cogens norms of modern international law. The United Nations Charter, the Draft Declaration on Rights and Duties of States, and the charters of regional international organizations express the view that all states are juridically equal and enjoy the same rights and duties based upon the mere fact of their existence as persons under international law.The right of nations to determine their own political status and exercise permanent sovereignty within the limits of their territorial jurisdictions is widely recognized.
In political science, sovereignty is usually defined as the most essential attribute of the state in the form of its complete self-sufficiency in the frames of a certain territory, that is its supremacy in the domestic policy and independence in the foreign one.
Named after the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, the Westphalian System of state sovereignty, which according to Bryan Turner is "made a more or less clear separation between religion and state, and recognized the right of princes 'to confessionalize' the state, that is, to determine the religious affiliation of their kingdoms on the pragmatic principle of cuius regio eius religio [ whose realm, his religion ]."
Before 1900 sovereign states enjoyed an absolute immunity from the judicial process, derived from the concepts of sovereignty and the Westphalian equality of states. First articulated by Jean Bodin, the powers of the state are considered to be suprema potestas within territorial boundaries. Based on this, the jurisprudence has developed along the lines of affording immunity from prosecution to foreign states in domestic courts. In The Schooner Exchange v. M'Faddon , Chief Justice John Marshall of the United States Supreme Court wrote that the "perfect equality and absolute independence of sovereigns" has created a class of cases where "every sovereign is understood to waive the exercise of a part of that complete exclusive territorial jurisdiction, which has been stated to be the attribute of every nation".
Absolute sovereign immunity is no longer as widely accepted as it has been in the past, and some countries including the United States, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa have introduced restrictive immunity by statute, which explicitly limits jurisdictional immunity to public acts, but not private or commercial ones, though there is no precise definition by which public acts can easily be distinguished from private ones.
State recognition signifies the decision of a sovereign state to treat another entity as also being a sovereign state.Recognition can be either expressed or implied and is usually retroactive in its effects. It does not necessarily signify a desire to establish or maintain diplomatic relations.
There is no definition that is binding on all the members of the community of nations on the criteria for statehood. In actual practice, the criteria are mainly political, not legal.L.C. Green cited the recognition of the unborn Polish and Czechoslovak states in World War I and explained that "since recognition of statehood is a matter of discretion, it is open to any existing State to accept as a state any entity it wishes, regardless of the existence of territory or of an established government."
In international law, however, there are several theories of when a state should be recognised as sovereign.
The constitutive theory of statehood defines a state as a person of international law if, and only if, it is recognised as sovereign by at least one other state. This theory of recognition was developed in the 19th century. Under it, a state was sovereign if another sovereign state recognised it as such. Because of this, new states could not immediately become part of the international community or be bound by international law, and recognised nations did not have to respect international law in their dealings with them.In 1815, at the Congress of Vienna the Final Act recognised only 39 sovereign states in the European diplomatic system, and as a result it was firmly established that in the future new states would have to be recognised by other states, and that meant in practice recognition by one or more of the great powers.
One of the major criticisms of this law is the confusion caused when some states recognise a new entity, but other states do not. Hersch Lauterpacht, one of the theory's main proponents, suggested that it is a state's duty to grant recognition as a possible solution. However, a state may use any criteria when judging if they should give recognition and they have no obligation to use such criteria. Many states may only recognise another state if it is to their advantage.
In 1912, L. F. L. Oppenheim said the following, regarding constitutive theory:
International Law does not say that a State is not in existence as long as it is not recognised, but it takes no notice of it before its recognition. Through recognition only and exclusively a State becomes an International Person and a subject of International Law.
By contrast, the declarative theory of statehood defines a state as a person in international law if it meets the following criteria: 1) a defined territory; 2) a permanent population; 3) a government and 4) a capacity to enter into relations with other states. According to declarative theory, an entity's statehood is independent of its recognition by other states, as long as the sovereignty was not gained by military force. The declarative model was most famously expressed in the 1933 Montevideo Convention.
A 'territory' in the international law context consists of a land territory, internal waters, territorial sea and air space above the territory. There is no requirement on strictly delimited borders or a minimum size of the land, but the artificial installations and the uninhabitable territories cannot be considered as territories sufficient for statehood. The term 'permanent population' defines the community that has the intention to inhabit the territory on a permanent basis and is capable to support the superstructure of the State, though there is no requirement on the minimal threshold of population. The government must be capable of exercising an effective control over a territory and population (the requirement known in legal theory as 'effective control test') and guarantee the protection of basic human rights by legal methods and policies. The 'capacity to enter into relations with other states' reflects the entity's degree of independence.
Article 3 of the Montevideo Convention declares that political statehood is independent of recognition by other states, and the state is not prohibited from defending itself.In contrast, recognition is considered a requirement for statehood by the constitutive theory of statehood. An important part of the convention was Article 11 that prohibits using military force to gain sovereignty.
A similar opinion about "the conditions on which an entity constitutes a state" is expressed by the European Economic Community Opinions of the Badinter Arbitration Committee , which found that a state was defined by having a territory, a population, government, and capacity to enter into relations with other states.
State practice relating to the recognition of states typically falls somewhere between the declaratory and constitutive approaches.International law does not require a state to recognise other states. Recognition is often withheld when a new state is seen as illegitimate or has come about in breach of international law. Almost universal non-recognition by the international community of Rhodesia and Northern Cyprus are good examples of this, the former only having been recognized by South Africa, and the latter only recognized by Turkey. In the case of Rhodesia, recognition was widely withheld when the white minority seized power and attempted to form a state along the lines of Apartheid South Africa, a move that the United Nations Security Council described as the creation of an "illegal racist minority régime". In the case of Northern Cyprus, recognition was withheld from a state created in Northern Cyprus. International law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence, and the recognition of a country is a political issue. As a result, Turkish Cypriots gained "observer status" in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and their representatives are elected in the Assembly of Northern Cyprus; and Northern Cyprus became an observer member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Economic Cooperation Organization.
Most sovereign states are both de jure and de facto (i.e., they exist both in law and in reality). However, states which are only de jure states are sometimes recognised as being the legitimate government of a territory over which they have no actual control. For example, during the Second World War, governments-in-exile of a number of states continued to enjoy diplomatic relations with the Allies, notwithstanding that their countries were under occupation by Axis powers. The PLO and Palestinian Authority claim that the State of Palestine is a sovereign state, a claim which has been recognised by most states, though most of the territory it claims is under the de facto control of Israel.Other entities may have de facto control over a territory but lack international recognition; these may be considered by the international community to be only de facto states. They are considered de jure states only according to their own law and by states that recognise them. For example, Somaliland is commonly considered to be such a state. For a list of entities that wish to be universally recognised as sovereign states, but do not have complete worldwide diplomatic recognition, see the list of states with limited recognition.
Although the terms "state" and "government" are often used interchangeably,international law distinguishes between a non-physical state and its government; and in fact, the concept of "government-in-exile" is predicated upon that distinction. States are non-physical juridical entities, and not organisations of any kind. However, ordinarily, only the government of a state can obligate or bind the state, for example by treaty.
Generally speaking, states are durable entities, though it is possible for them to become extinguished, either through voluntary means or outside forces, such as military conquest. Violent state abolition has virtually ceased since the end of World War II.Because states are non-physical juridical entities, it has been argued their extinction cannot be due to physical force alone. Instead, the physical actions of the military must be associated with the correct social or judiciary actions in order to abolish a state.
The ontological status of the state has been the subject of debate,specially, whether or not the state, being an object that no one can see, taste, touch, or otherwise detect, actually exists.
It has been argued that one potential reason as to why the existence of states has been controversial is because states do not have a place in the traditional Platonist duality of the concrete and the abstract.Characteristically, concrete objects are those that have position in time and space, which states do not have (though their territories have spatial position, but states are distinct from their territories), and abstract objects have position in neither time nor space, which does not fit the supposed characteristics of states either, since states do have temporal position (they can be created at certain times and then become extinct at a future time). Therefore, it has been argued that states belong to a third category, the quasi-abstract, that has recently begun to garner philosophical attention, especially in the area of documentality, an ontological theory that seeks to understand the role of documents in understanding all of social reality. Quasi-abstract objects, such as states, can be brought into being through document acts, and can also be used to manipulate them, such as by binding them by treaty or surrendering them as the result of a war.
Scholars in international relations can be broken up into two different practices, realists and pluralists, of what they believe the ontological state of the state is. Realists believe that the world is one of only states and interstate relations and the identity of the state is defined before any international relations with other states. On the other hand, pluralists believe that the state is not the only actor in international relations and interactions between states and the state is competing against many other actors.
Another theory of the ontology of the state is that the state is a spiritual,or "mystical entity" with its own being, distinct from the members of the state. The German Idealist philosopher Georg Hegel (1770–1831) was perhaps the greatest proponent of this theory. The Hegelian definition of the state is "the Divine Idea as it exists on Earth".
Since the end of World War II, the number of sovereign states in the international system has surged.Some research suggests that the existence of international and regional organisations, the greater availability of economic aid, and greater acceptance of the norm of self-determination have increased the desire of political units to secede and can be credited for the increase in the number of states in the international system. Harvard economist Alberto Alesina and Tufts economist Enrico Spolaore argue in their book, Size of Nations, that the increase in the number of states can partly be credited to a more peaceful world, greater free trade and international economic integration, democratisation, and the presence of international organisations that co-ordinate economic and political policies.
Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States, 1 lays down the most widely accepted formulation of the criteria of statehood in international law. It note that the state as an international person should possess the following qualifications: '(a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states'
So far as States are concerned, the traditional definitions provided for in the Montevideo Convention remain generally accepted.
A sovereign state is generally defined to be any nation or people, whatever may be the form of its internal constitution, which governs itself independently of foreign powers.
adj. 1. Self-governing; independent: a sovereign state.
adjective ... [ attrib. ] (of a nation or state) fully independent and determining its own affairs.
The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States is a treaty signed at Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 26, 1933, during the Seventh International Conference of American States. The Convention codifies the declarative theory of statehood as accepted as part of customary international law. At the conference, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull declared the Good Neighbor Policy, which opposed U.S. armed intervention in inter-American affairs. The convention was signed by 19 states. The acceptance of three of the signatories was subject to minor reservations. Those states were Brazil, Peru and the United States.
Sovereignty is the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies. In political theory, sovereignty is a substantive term designating supreme legitimate authority over some polity. In international law, sovereignty is the exercise of power by a state. De jure sovereignty refers to the legal right to do so; de facto sovereignty refers to the factual ability to do so. This can become an issue of special concern upon the failure of the usual expectation that de jure and de facto sovereignty exist at the place and time of concern, and reside within the same organization.
The history of the State of Palestine describes the creation and evolution of the State of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The term "Palestinian territories" has been used for many years to describe the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. More recently, the official United Nations (UN) terminology has been used, occupied Palestinian territory increasingly replacing other terms since 1999. The European Union (EU) also has adopted this usage. The term Occupied Palestinian Territory was used by the UN and other international organizations between October 1999 and December 2012 to refer to areas controlled by the Palestinian National Authority. The EU had utilized a parallel term Palestinian Authority territories occasionally during the same period. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) referred to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as "the Occupied Palestinian Territory" and this term was used as the legal definition by the ICJ in the ruling in July 2004.
Palestine, recognized officially as the State of Palestine by the United Nations and other entities, is a de jure sovereign state in Western Asia claiming the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jerusalem as the designated capital, although its administrative center is currently located in Ramallah. The entirety of territory claimed by the State of Palestine has been occupied since 1948, first by Egypt and Jordan and then by Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967. Palestine has a population of 5,051,953 as of February 2020, ranked 121st in the world.
An associated state is the minor partner in a formal, free relationship between a political territory with a degree of statehood and a nation, for which no other specific term, such as protectorate, is adopted.
Diplomatic recognition in international law is a unilateral political act with domestic and international legal consequences whereby a state acknowledges an act or status of another state or government in control of a state. Recognition can be reaccorded either de facto or de jure. Recognition can be a declaration to that effect by the recognizing government or an act of recognition such as entering into a treaty with the other state. A vote by a country in the United Nations in favour of the membership of another country is an implicit recognition of that country by the country so voting, as only states may be members of the UN.
A constituent state is a state entity that constitutes a part of a sovereign state. A constituent state holds regional jurisdiction over a defined administrative territory, within a sovereign state. Government of a constituent state is a form of regional government. Throughout history, and also in modern political practice, most constituent states are part of complex states, like federations or confederations. Constituent states can have republican or monarchical forms of government. Those of republican form are usually called states or autonomous states, republics or autonomous republics, or cantons. Those that have a monarchical form of government are often defined by traditional hierarchical rank of their ruler.
The Israeli-occupied territories refers to the territories occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967 and sometimes also to areas of Southern Lebanon, where Israeli military was notably present to support local Lebanese militias during the civil war and after it. Originally, those territories included the Syrian Golan Heights, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip and Jordanian-annexed West Bank. The first use of the term 'territories occupied' was in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 following the Six-Day War in 1967, which called for "the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East" to be achieved by "the application of both the following principles: ... Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict ... Termination of all claims or states of belligerency" and respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries. In addition to the territories occupied following the Six-Day War, Israel also occupied portions of Southern Lebanon following the 1982 Lebanon War, and maintained a military presence there until withdrawing in 2000.
The status of territories captured by Israel refers to the status of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula, captured by Israel on the course of the 1967 Six-Day War.
The Golan Heights Law is the Israeli law which applies Israel's government and laws to the Golan Heights. It was ratified by the Knesset by a vote of 63―21, on December 14, 1981. Although the law did not use the term, it was considered by the international community and some members of the Israeli opposition as an "annexation" of the Golan Heights.
Iceland–Israel relations refers to the diplomatic relations between Iceland and Israel. Both nations are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization.
The political status of the Cook Islands and Niue is formally defined as being states in free association within the Realm of New Zealand, which is made up of the Cook Islands, Niue, and New Zealand and its territories, Tokelau and the Ross Dependency.
There are a wide variety of views regarding the legal status of the State of Palestine, both among the states of the international community and among legal scholars, but there is a general consensus that the State of Palestine is de jure sovereign. It is a non-member observer state at the United Nations since November, 2012.As of 31 July 2019, a total of 138 countries recognize it.