Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Flawed Montevideo Convention of 1933

International law and the recognition of states is not always straight forward. The Montevideo Convention of 1933 is a clear example of this. In that year, the Montevidoe Convention was signed at Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 26 at the Seventh International Conference of American States.

The essence of this treaty comes down to this:

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

The treaty was limited to 19 states and was never ratified into international law. However, it is often cited by any group (or person!) who meets this criteria as evidence that an entity should be treated as an independent sovereign nation. Just about every separatist group in the world cites this as evidence that they are already technically an independent nation-state. So do micronations.

What is a micronation? Here is a definition from the Micronation Wiki:

A micronation (cybernation, fantasy country, model country, new country project, pseudonation, counternation, ephemeral state, online nation, and variants thereof) is an entity intended to replace, resemble, mock, or exist on equal footing with recognized independent states. Some micronations are created with serious intent, while others exist as a hobby or stunt. For the most part they exist only on paper, on the Internet, or in the minds of their creators and participants. A small number have also managed to achieve some degree of recognition. When they do, they converge to some degree with other organizing paradigms that offer, or seem to offer, political or infrastructural independence of some sort.

There are hundreds of micronations ought there. Most exist only as websites. However, some exist with real land territory as well. Some examples include The Government of the Principality of Sealand, Christiania, The Conch Republic, and the Dominion of Melchizedek. And according to the Montevideo Convention, these are all "states" worthy of international recognition.

Despite how widely the Montevideo Convention is cited, it is ignored by the international community today. Under the definition of that treaty, anyone with a piece of real estate and a lawyer can produce a state. This is not very helpful under international law and is actually rather harmful. It dilutes the meaningfulness of international statehood to the level of absurdity.

The way international law actually works is closer to the Declarative Theory of Statehood. In essence, that theory states that other sovereign nation-states have to recognize a state for it to be valid. Sorry to say, the abandoned platform off of the United Kingdom which is Sealand does not qualify.

If you see the Montevideo Convention cited in any paper or website, turn on your critical thinking skills. It is almost always an appeal to a flawed concept which has little legal validity. True nation-states do not need to cite it. So, why is it being referenced? It is a good bet it is a ploy to draw in those who do not understand how international recognition actually works. Do not buy a passport or invest in their banks. That is, unless you want to actually contribute to their hobby (or yours).

1 comment:

a. tuzztimonial said...

Let's not forget Jonestown...