Sunday, October 6, 2013




  The "commons"of mankind would include but not be limited to the high seas and the deep seabeds beyond the continental; shelves. At the moment, by international agreement, the Antarctic continent operates as part of the commons , although sovereign claims upon this territory exist.There is not always agreement on where the commons begin at sea. The world's blue water navies expend considerable effort thwarting the sovereignty patrols of some nations attempting to assert sovereignty over some portion of the commons.

 The traditional concept of sovereignty included the right of a state to resort to war whenever it was deemed necessary. Member states of the United Nations are limited in the right by their acquiescence to the UN charter.

 Limits to sovereignty may be voluntary, imposed by International Law as in the recognition of the commons, or imposed by other sovereigns or organizations of sovereigns. 

Among the imposed limits of sovereignty we observe  :

. the neutralization of states
. the creation of dependent states such as suzerainties, protectorates, mandates, and trust territories.

 States are typically neutralized by the actions of other states, generally by treaty. The neutralized state agrees to avoid all war except self defense while states signatory to the treaty agree to respect the inviolability of the territory of the neutralized state.

 By contrast, neutral states voluntarily assume such status and may end it at will. A neutral state as distinguished from a neutralized state is under no obligation to maintain its neutral status. Other forms of imposed limits on sovereignty are becoming rare.

 Suzerainty, the concept of a vassal states for the purpose of foreign affairs has virtually disappeared.   This type of imposed limit existed in cloaked form for the nations of the now defunct Warsaw Pact. The last really open example was Egypt between 1840 and 1936 under British "guardianship".

 Protectorates have been established from time to time by the United Nations in recent history. However, this status is transitional and protectorates generally expect to gain sovereignty at some point. Protectorates generally allow for a high degree of internal autonomy. This contrasts with Trust Territories established pursuant to Article 83 of the United Nations Charter. Despite the lessened degree of internal autonomy the goal is t0 progress the Trust Territory to eventual sovereignty. 


 Sovereignty, in theory, may be acquired by effective settlement of essentially unoccupied land and the establishment of an accepted government enjoying the allegiance of the people. The evolution of new sovereigns from colonies of preexisting sovereigns has been either by violent revolution or by grant of the preexisting sovereign.  I either case, the grant of sovereignty to a colony usually results in quick recognition by other sovereign states. However, recognition alone does not establish sovereignty.

 Sovereignty is enhanced but not dependent upon recognition by other sovereigns. Recognition comes in a variety of forms and follows no set pattern. Recognition is mostly an instrument of national policy. Some states simply may have no interest in the existence of a particular state. Other states may have a particular interest in withholding recognition. For example, during the Cold War the United States refused to recognize Soviet sovereignty over the Baltic States. It refused to recognize the extinguishment of the preexisting states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The United States moved relatively quickly to recognize the sovereignty of these states as they reemerged from Soviet control at the end of the Cold War.

 Of all of the means of establishing sovereignty the most effective is effective settlement and governance. This is the essential reason why Argentina has no rel claim upon the Falklands.  While there were many Spanish surnames among the original settlers with former residence in what is now called Argentina, the Falklands were settled under British license. British colonial agencies protected land claims, provided civil government, and the British navy protected the islands from invasion. As the colony prospered the people assumed more and more of the duties of daily governance but continued to rely on the protection of the British Navy and other British agencies. The people of the islands never revolted against British rule and when given the choice on free elections have always chosen to be British territory. Argentina's claim of a revolt nearly two centuries ago is a myth. What actually happened is that a handful of cowboys hired by the British government to tend to feral cattle in the hills refused payment ion sterling notes and demanded payment in gold. When the authorities refused to pay off in gold the cowboys decided to shoot up the small town on the largest of the islands. The populace made short work of them. They demanded gold not political autonomy. The Brits now have a second claim to Sovereignty over the Falklands beside historic effective settlement and administration, and the proven loyalty of the actual inhabitants. The British have now successfully defended the islands by force of arms.  

    Sovereignty once acquired by a state can be lost. 
       There are very few examples of sovereignty surrendered voluntarily; but it has happened.  The Republic of Texas incorporated itself into the United States by treaty. Most states are extinguished, by annexation-sometimes bloodless, but usually by conquest. 

     Sovereignty can also be lost over a portion of territory where a region secedes from a state.
Secession in this sense can be peaceful as a result of a plebiscite or violent as by revolution.

Succession has another meaning in International law. 
       This word is closely associated with problems created by the extinguishment of sovereignty. 
Succession refers to the assumption of sovereignty of an extinct state by another viable state.

      As a general rule, a succeeding state will not automatically assume the treaty rights and obligations of the extinguished state. Property rights such as title to public assets, generally are assured by the new sovereign. When cession is by treaty, the succeeding state may assume general obligations for former treaties. There is no firm rule or expectation in this regard but a willingness to assume the obligations of the extinct state is often a factor in recognition.


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