What is the legal significance of the recognition or non-recognition of a political unit purporting to secede from a state?

Essays | Murad Muradov | 25-01-2018, 22:00

What is the legal significance of the recognition or non-recognition of a political unit purporting to secede from a state?The essential problem standing in this work is to compare the legal status of seceding units that are internationally recognized with those that are not. At first, all the terms which may cause ambiguity should be unequivocally defined. Under the term “state”, we mean, according to the Montevideo Convention of 1933, a political organization that responds to the requirements of disposing of a substantial constant population, definite territory, effective government that fulfils control over the territory, and capacity to enter into international relations. Secession is an attempt to withdraw territory from a state and convert it into an independent state or joining it to another state . But to give clear frames of recognition is more difficult, as there exist constitutive and declaratory theory of recognition which look differently at this matter and are equally acceptable in international law. There are thus two theories about recognition, one being opposite to another. Declaratory theory proves that the existence of states is just a matter of fact and recognition serves only to express the other states’ approach towards it. T. Batty claimed that recognition need not take any fixed form, and is unconditional, as one can’t recognize the fact on conditions . On the other hand, constitutive theory assumes that in order to start functioning, a state should be recognized at least by a substantial number of international actors. This second point of view is normative, while the declaratory theory is of merely positive nature. However, the states that existed at least 100 years ago, were created without any assistance of international legal order; moreover, as international law is horizontal, and it is states that create it, declarative theory is much more historically substantiated. But the development of international law has put its considerable trace on the recognition practices. Anyway, if diplomatic relations between 2 countries are established, or recognition is separately expressed, there is no doubt that it has an unequivocal meaning of full de-jure recognition. 


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Murad Muradov

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