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On the margins : international society and the De facto state Pegg, Scott McDonald


This study explores the phenomenon of de facto statehood in contemporary international relations. In essence, the de facto state is almost the inverse of what Robert Jackson has termed the "quasi-state." The quasi-state has a flag, a capital city, an ambassador, and a seat at the United Nations but it does not function positively as a viable governing entity. It is generally incapable of delivering services to its population and the scope of its governance often does not extend beyond the capital city, if even there. The quasi-state's empirical limitations, however, do not detract from its de jure sovereign legitimacy which is externally guaranteed by the other members of international society. The de facto state, on the other hand, though lacking de jure legitimacy, does effectively control a given territorial area and provide governmental services to a specific population which accords it a degree of popular support. In spite of the vast literature on such topics as sovereignty, the state, secession, and self-determination, there has not yet been any systematic study of the causes and implications of de facto statehood for international relations. It is this gap in the literature which this study aims to redress. It does so in four main ways. First, this study addresses the question "What is the de facto state?" It advances a working definition and ten theoretical criteria to delineate the de facto state as a separate category of actor in international politics worthy of analysis in its own right. This theoretical endeavor is then fleshed out and operationalized through a detailed focus on four case studies: (1) Eritrea before it won its independence from Ethiopia; (2) the parts of Sri Lanka controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; (3) the Republic of Somaliland; and (4) the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Second, the study engages in a birth, life, and death or evolution examination of the de facto state. Here we are concerned with such questions as "What factors in the contemporary international system produce the phenomenon of de facto statehood?"; "What impact do de facto states have on international law and international society?"; "How are de facto states dealt with by other actors in international politics?"; and "What sort of transformations might we expect to see these entities undergo in the future?" Third, the study evaluates the potential impact of this phenomenon on the academic study of international relations. In particular, it assesses the significance of de facto statehood for international theory as a whole and for specific theoretical perspectives such as realism, rationalism, feminism, and post-modernism. Finally, the study considers the practical and policy implications of these entities. Specifically, it asks "What, if anything, can or should be done about this phenomenon?" The study concludes by offering a series of policy recommendations designed to facilitate the accommodation of de facto states within the contemporary international system.

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