Accession to Statehood

This concept refers to the moment when a political entity acquires the status of a sovereign state.

Definition

The concept Accession to Statehood refers to the moment when a political entity acquires the status of a sovereign state.

Accession to Statehood occurs when the following two conditions are met:

  • A political entity declares itself as a politically independent state; and

  • A critical mass of the international community recognizes that the entity has effectively satisfied the criteria for statehood.

Status of statehood, once achieved, is irrevocable, absolute and indivisible.1

The Object of Accession: Statehood

In practice, an entity’s accession to statehood requires both:

  • the positive attitude of existing states, i.e. de jure recognition; and
  • effectiveness of the new state, i.e. de facto control: (see Realms of Statehood)

De jure2 – The Act of Recognition3 by existing states acknowledges that a new state has satisfied the criteria for statehood and confers upon it the legal status as a state.4

De facto – Statehood, under international law, requires satisfaction of the following criteria5: (a) permanent population; (b) defined territory; (c); self governing and (d) to enter into relations with other states. Hence, a political entity that effectively meets these criteria is, de facto, a state.6

Approaches to Accession

Since World War II, many states have acceded to statehood as a result of various processes, including, inter alia, decolonization, secession or dissolution of federal states.

Accession to Statehood can be classified into the following categories:

  • Internal Approach – Accession to Statehood is instigated internally by a nationalist movement, which desires sovereign independence and invokes their Right of Self-Determination, as in the cases of Algeria or Vietnam.

  • External Approach – Accession to Statehood is instigated externally by the international community or foreign states, which help to establish a constitutional framework and a declaration of independence, as in the cases of East Timor or Macedone, “The Practice of Sovereign Statehood in Contemporary International Society”, Political Studies (1999), XLVII, 457-473.

Diagram

Accession to Statehood


1 Alan James, “The Practice of Sovereign Statehood in Contemporary International Society”, Political Studies (1999), XLVII, 457-473.
2 The practice of recognition may be viewed as emanating from two distinct theories:
· Declaratory – The Act of Recognition is just an acceptance by states of a “reality on the ground”, meaning that de facto the state has already come into being.
· Constitutive – “Collective Recognition” is what endows an entity with its status of statehood.See: Malcolm Shaw. International Law. Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 185.
3 The concept Act of Recognition refers to the declaration by which one existing state:
  • Formally acknowledges the political status of another entity as a state; and
  • Takes upon itself the legal consequences of the recognition under international law in its relations with the new state (See Inherent State Rights and Duties).
4 For example, Somalia is a state de jure, but has no recognized central government authority, president or national currency.
5 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, 1933.
6 For example, Taiwan is a de-facto state since it effectively satisfies the criteria for statehood, but lacks de jure sovereignty, as it is not recognized by leading members of the international community.