What Is Meant by State Recognition in International Law

Topics: Sovereign state, Law, International relations Pages: 12 (3863 words) Published: March 18, 2011
What is meant by state recognition in international law


Some definitions of “international law” can be found on the Web as follows: “The body of laws governing relations between nations”, “International law is the term commonly used for referring to the system of implicit and explicit agreements that bind together nation-states in adherence to recognized values and standards, differing from other legal systems in that it concerns nations rather than private citizens. ...”, “A complex network of principles, treaties, judicial decisions, customs, practices, and writings of experts that are binding on States in their mutual relations.” The common point of the definitions is that, international law deals with the states and states activities.

Addition to the States and the State’s activities international law has a wide range of interests, as Shaw indicates “Public international law covers relations between states...and regulates the operations of the many international institutions”. Nevertheless, “the states were the original and remain the primary actors in the international legal system.” This essay considers an important case of international law, “recognition”. To make it easier to understand, first it describes the states and the criteria of statehood.

After that, it will focus on the concept of recognition, the difference ways in which it can occur and the kinds of situations it may apply in. Finally this paper will conclude by outlining the legal results of recognition.


In all legal systems, the subject of law is an entity, which has enforceable rights and duties at the law. It can be a company or an individual and both are defined as “legal person” by the law.6 Legal personality is the main clause for the entities to function or in other words to allege and enforce a claim. International law is constituted by States and it is generally concerning the activities and the transactions of States. As Warbrick says “International law...has something to do with States”. Fifty years ago it was generally admitted that “. States are the only legal persons of the international law”, but today conception is rather different, the participants can be regarded as; states, international organizations, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, public companies, private companies and individuals.

International law states that, an entity which meets the international legal criteria of statehood is able to be a State. And the Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States provides the criteria of the statehood. According the Convention a state should have: a) A permanent population

b) A defined territory
c) Government and
d) Capacity to enter into relations with other states.

Similarly, the Arbitration Commission of the European Conference on Yugoslavia in Opinion No. 1 declared that “ the State is commonly defined as a community which consists of a territory and a population subject to an organized political authority” and that “such a State is characterized by sovereignty”.

a) A permanent population. There must be some people to establish the existence of a State but there is not a specification of a minimum number of people and again there is not a requirement that all of the people be national of the state;

b) Territory. The second qualification is territory where the permanent populations live on. However, there is not a necessity of having well- established boundaries as the international Court of Justice said in the North Sea Continental Shelf cases, “ ... there is...no rule that the land frontiers of a state must be fully delimited and defined”. The well known example is the uncertainty of the land frontiers of Israel when it was admitted as a State;

c) Government. A State requires a government that functions as a political body within the law of the land. But it is not a condition precedent...
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