UBC Theses and Dissertations
International society and the establishment of new states : the practice of state recognition in the era of national self-determination Fabry, Mikulas
The dissertation examines recognition of new states, the practice historically employed to regulate membership in international society. The last fifteen years have witnessed novel or reinvigorated demands for statehood in many areas of the world. The claims of some, like those of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eritrea, Croatia, Moldova, Georgia or East Timor, achieved recognition; those of others, like Kosovo, Krajina, Bouganville, Abkhazia, Somaliland or Chechnya, did not. However, even as most of these claims gave rise to serious conflicts, the practice has elicited little systematic scholarly reflection. Drawing upon writings of international society theorists, the dissertation looks at the criteria that have guided recognition of new states. It charts the practice from the late eighteenth century until the present. Its central finding is that state recognition has always been tied to the idea of self-determination of peoples and not, as is conventionally assumed, only since the end of the First World War. State recognition can be said to have (1) emerged as a coherent practice in response to this idea and (2) evolved chiefly as a result of the continuous necessity to come to terms with the dilemmas presented by this idea. Two versions of the idea have guided the practice - selfdetermination as a natural and as a positive right. The former, dominant from the 1820s to the 1950s, took as the standard for acknowledgment the achievement of de facto statehood by a people desiring independence. The latter, prevalent since the 1950s, took as the basis of recognition a positive right to independence in international law. The development of self-determination as a positive right, however, has not led to a disappearance of claims of statehood that stand outside of its confines. Groups that feel unhappy within the states they belong to have continued to make demands for independence irrespective of the fact that they may not have an international right to it. The study concludes by expressing doubt that contemporary international society can find a sustainable basis for recognition of new states other than de facto statehood.