Khemed, Syldavia and Borduria are having negotiations about the sovereignty over Khemed. Having accepted the rule of maximin they are going to share sovereignty. So far we know WHO will be part of the negotiations: Khemed, Syldavia and Borduria; WHY they are part of the negotiations: because each of them has a colourable claim; and WHAT they are going to do with the allocation of sovereignty: they are going to share sovereignty by application of maximin. It is time now to discuss HOW these shares will be decided. To do this, the representatives of each population (Khemed, Syldavia and Borduria) are reviewing a series of possible options in order to make a decision about how to share the sovereignty over Khemed.

The first idea all the representatives revised and rejected was historical entitlement. That is to say, what would be fairer that grant the sovereignty (or the largest share of sovereignty) to the party whom was in that land first? What would be fairer than to give to someone what is due to him? However simple at first, the representatives have realised this approach will not settle the question and will only bring controversy.


It is time now to deal with the second option. Now the representatives in our story will consider what kind of choice, if any, might be best for one of the parties that is originally in a comparatively bad situation (Khemed) and if so, if that would justify leave the other two with smaller shares. That is because Khemed is not a fully independent and sovereign State. Syldavia and Borduria are. Any of the representatives may put forward a claim by which the population with more necessities or more vulnerable in any form should be protected by the other two that are comparatively in a better situation.

At first glance, the adapted principle would secure the situation of the inhabitants in Khemed. With a small population and a small territory, even though they have the rare metal all parties want, Khemedians are not able to explore and exploit the precious natural resource. Their main source of income is the exportation of basic products obtained from fishing and farming. They do not have any means to defend the island. Finally, the sovereignty of the island has been continuously claimed by the two sovereign States in our story, Syldavia and Borduria. Because Syldavia and Borduria have never been interested in Khemed and their land they have always maintained peaceful bilateral relations. As we know, this has recently changed. Hence, this negotiation is taking place. By implication, Syldavia and Borduria would have to fulfil certain obligations towards Khemed. In that way the wellbeing of the people in Khemed would be protected. Their interests would be paramount to all three parties.


The representatives would find this approach might have to face a series of problems. First, the representatives know they are acting on behalf of Khemed, Syldavia or Borduria. But, they do not know exactly whom they actually represent.  Then, if this was the chosen option they may favour any other party but theirs. That is to say, they may be from Syldavia or Borduria but this kind of decision only favours Khemed.

Secondly, there is no particular reason to give one population priority over another. More specifically, the application of this approach does not guarantee a just solution for this sovereignty conflict since it can be the case that the most vulnerable party is one of the claiming sovereign States (Syldavia or Borduria) and not the population of Khemed.

Finally, the application of this second approach solely in favour of Khemed denies that the rights of the other two parties (Syldavia and Borduria) are of equal importance. The representatives would have to assume that for whatever reason Khemed has a particular kind of priority. More importantly, once the negotiations were over the representatives would have to justify this assumption to the entire population in Syldavia and Borduria.

For all of the above reasons it is highly unlikely the representatives of the three peoples would agree and favour only one of the parties, in this case Khemed.


In summary, the representatives of Khemed, Syldavia and Borduria agreed that the third territory does not belong to its inhabitants (no matter why) and that they will not argue from their supposed historical rights over it. They do not know which group they represent and therefore do not know which set of historical arguments will favour their people or another party. So, they recognise that making the resolution of this kind of dispute centred on history will only guarantee endless controversy. In consequence, they accept that each of them has a right to some sovereignty over the third territory. In addition to this, none of the representatives can obtain any special advantage for whoever they represent or can put them in a particular disadvantageous situation. Consequently, the agreement should offer such a solution that not only is in the best interest of just one of the parties but somehow includes those of all the claimants. Therefore, they have realised that to share sovereignty is the best option for all of them (by application of the rule of maximin). That is because of the nature of the parties and the fact that each has a colourable claim, which give them some legitimate interest in the sovereignty over Khemed. Then, and as they now need to work out the details of how to share sovereignty, they will explore the possibilities of applying these principles into the negotiations.

The next posts will compare and contrast two potential solutions to this conflict from opposite standpoints: whether the shares of sovereignty should be different or whether the shares of sovereignty should be equal. The former will bring about questions about what kind of difference would be taken into account to define the extent of each share of sovereignty. The latter will undoubtedly open the arguments to questions related to how we can secure equal shares of, for example, objects or activities that cannot be divided.

Jorge Emilio Núñez

27th October 2017

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