Recognition of state : Public International Law

Essentials for Recognition as a State

Under the International Law, Article 1 of the Montevideo Conference, 1933 defines the state as a person and lays down following essentials that an entity should possess in order to acquire recognition as a state. The different essentials to recognize a state are:-

  1. Permanent population
  2. Definite territory
  3. Government
  4. Capacity to enter into relations with other states.

State is the primary subject in International Law. The requirements to be considered as a subject of international law are the capacity to have rights and duties under international law. Some writers also argue that a State must be fully independent and be recognized as a State by other States. The international legal system is a horizontal system dominated by States which are, in principle, considered sovereign and equal. International law is predominately made and implemented by States. Only States can have sovereignty over territory. Only States can become members of the United Nations and other international organizations. Only States have access to the International Court of Justice. According to Montevideo Convention the state as a subject of international law should possess the above mentioned essentials.

    1. Permanent population: –A permanent population is another necessary requirement for statehood. There are no criteria relating to the size of the population: Andorra with its 68,000 inhabitants is as much a State as India, which now has currently well over one billion inhabitants. Neither does international law set any requirements about the nature of the population: the population may largely consist of nomads (such as in Somalia), it may be ethnically (relatively) homogeneous (such as in Iceland) or very diverse (such as in the former Soviet Union), it may be very poor (such as in Sierra Leone, where in 2000 nearly 70 percent of the population lived below the poverty line) or it may be very rich (as in many Western States). It should also be noted that the requirement of a permanent population does not relate to the nationality of a population: it merely requires that States have a permanent population. According to Brownlie it connotes a stable community with a physical basis.
    2. Definite territory: – The development of the State is closely linked to the ability to exercise effective control over a defined territory. However, the existence of border disputes is not an obstacle to attaining statehood in international law. There is no rule stating that the boundaries of a State should be undisputed or unambiguously established. Israel for example, was admitted to the United Nations on 11 May 1949, despite its ongoing territorial disputes with the Arab States. According to O’Keefe there is no limit to size. Undefined boundaries will not matter as long as the core territory is defined. With regard to the size of the territory it can be stated that no specific requirements exist: the international community of State consists of both micro-States, such as Liechtenstein and San Marino and very large States such as Canada or Russia.
    3. Government: –The third requirement for statehood, is the existence of a government capable of exercising independent and effective authority over the population and the territory. The importance that is attached to the criteria of independence and effectiveness is understandable considering the predominantly decentralized nature of international law. Since international law lacks a central executive body, with the power to enforce compliance with international obligations, compliance with international obligations must often be guaranteed by the States themselves. A State must therefore be able to the effectively and independently exercise its authority within its borders. According to Brownlie the existence of effective government, with centralised administrative and legislative organs, is the best evidence of a stable political community.
    4. Capacity to enter into relation with other states: – It can be said that the capacity to enter into full range of international relations can be a valuable measure, but capacity or competence in this sense depends in part on the power of the government, without which a State cannot carry out its international obligations. The ability of the government to independently carry out its obligations and accept responsibility for them in turn greatly depends on the previously discussed requirements of effective government and independence. Moreover, a State cannot enter into relations with other States if it is not recognized. Consequently, it cannot be recognized as a State. According to Shaw the concern is the lack of competence to enter into legal relations, and the essence of such a capacity is independence.

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