So far… Sovereignty disputes or conflicts are very similar to fighting over an orange or a cake. In what sense? In that we have more than one person interested in having the complete item. See the Malvinas/Falkland islands, Kashmir, Gibraltar, Jerusalem, Tibet, Quebec, Galicia, Cyprus, and so many others. Each country and each population want the land for themselves and only themselves.
Last time we introduced a fictional story… Once upon a time, there was a world with three peoples, the Khemedians, the Syldavians and the Bordurians.
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By comparison, the three peoples are more and less advantaged in many senses. That is, if we take some of the elements that have to do with each population and their situation and we compare with the other two, each of these people will be better and worse than the others in relation to different elements and activities. For example:
Khemed is the most advantaged in terms of natural resources, at least in what has to do with the rare metal (difference in Khemed’s favour), the least advantaged in territorial and population size, and less advantaged than Syldavia in wealth and defence.
Syldavia is the most advantaged in terms of wealth and defence (differences in Syldavia’s favour), the least advantaged in terms of natural resources, and less advantaged than Borduria in relation to territorial size and their geographical proximity to Khemed.
Borduria is the most advantaged in terms of geographical proximity to Khemed (difference in Borduria’s favour), but the least advantaged in terms of wealth. It is less advantaged than Syldavia in terms of defence.
With the news about the imminent end of their world the three peoples are in chaos. Khemedians have the natural resources to build an inter-stellar ship but they do not have the means to explore and exploit their land. And, even if they could, they do not have any technological or scientific means to build up the ship. Bordurians are willing to cooperate with Khemedians. Unfortunately, Bordurians do not have the financial resources to help in the exploration and the exploitation. And, like Khemedians, even if they did, they do not have the scientific or technological level of development to do anything with the rare metal. Syldavians, however, have the science and technology on their side. In fact, they are considering an invasion to Khemed. The main deterrent is the fact that they are so far geographically they will need to either deploy forces in Borduria or to have a permanent deployment in the sea surrounding Khemed. Syldavia has all the means to deploy their forces. But they have learnt that Khemedians will not accept an invasion and are willing to go to war to defend their land. If that was the case, Borduria has made explicit they will support with any means they can Khemedians.
You may ask yourself: can cooperation exist between two or more individuals that are self-centred? Even if it may happen, can two or more complete societies that are self-centred cooperate? In the example above, would it be possible for Khemedians, Bordurians and Syldavians to work together on a shared project and still be sovereigns? That is, may sovereignty be seen in a positive (maybe even proactive) rather than a negative way?
Pluralism: we are all different
What do the above “images” have in common? That they are all different! For the moment let us leave Khemed, Borduria and Syldavia aside. Consider an individual, any individual. Now consider a sovereign State, any sovereign State. A sovereign individual and a sovereign State are similar in many ways. If we had to see an individual in relation to himself and others we would have:
a) An individual in his individuality. That is, I.
b) An individual and his peers. That is, you and I.
c) An individual and the society he is part of. That is, us and I.
d) An individual as part of a society and other societies. That is, others, us and I.
Similar to sovereign individuals and civil societies, sovereign States are part of a larger environment, the world. Sovereign states, like sovereign individuals, may have different kinds of relations as part of that environment:
a) A sovereign State in its individuality. I.e. internal affairs.
b) A sovereign State and its peers. I.e. international agreements and international customs.
c) A sovereign State and the international community at large. I.e. cases in which all or most of the existent sovereign States are considered to be part of . E.g. United Nations.
In brief, sovereign individuals and sovereign States may be considered in their individuality, in their relations with their peers or as part of a larger societal organisation, whether national or international.
Any societal group has to have at least two individuals. In fact, a group is an aggregation or at least two people. These people may have many similarities. However, it is likely they will have many differences. The term “pluralism” describes here the fact that different people constitute any community. And this is applicable to any local, national and international community with regard to sovereign individuals and sovereign States.
There are individuals that are males and others that are females. There are some individuals that are elders and some others young; some that are tall and others that are short; and so on. Similarly, the international community is constituted by rich and poor sovereign States; sovereign States that are insular and others that are part of a larger piece of land we call continents; some are highly populated, some barely have people; and so on.
Since we are all different but live together in civil societies we tend to have standards of conduct or behaviour to be able to interact with each other without major problems. If a problem occurs, we have procedures to put solutions in place. These standards of conduct or behaviour and procedures are called norms. These norms tell us how to act and how not to act in certain circumstances, how to proceed in certain others. We have religion, morals, law, etiquette, games, sports and many other systems of norms or normative systems. That is a group of norms. Norms are simply standards of human behaviour or conduct. That means that under certain circumstances I am going to be expected to behave in a certain manner, according to a certain standards. For example, I am not to attend church or the mosque wearing a swimsuit; or if I am playing football, I am not supposed to touch the ball with my hands unless I am the goalkeeper.
Jorge Emilio Núñez
22nd September 2017