By applying equality strictly, the agents would all receive equal benefits and contribute equally towards the burdens. How would Borduria fulfil its duty to defend Khemed? How would Khemedians defend themselves? The same could be said about natural resources because although Khemedians, Syldavians and Bordurians would receive the same share in terms of ownership, Khemedians and Bordurians would not have the means to exploit them. Several other implications could be drawn but the point is clear. It is both unreasonable and unfair to expect three parties with different comparative situations in many different areas to contribute in an equal manner or to receive an equal return.

Nevertheless, to apply the difference principle in the same form may have similar consequences. Syldavia is the least advantaged in terms of natural resources, so they will receive a larger share. Khemed is less advantaged than Syldavia in terms of defence, so the latter will provide the means to defend the third territory. But Borduria is the least advantaged in terms of wealth, the natural resources in its territory are not part of the agreement so they are not under discussion, and they do not have any means to defend the third territory (Bordurians cannot even defend themselves). Would they have to receive a larger share of the benefits resultant from the exploitation of natural resources in Khemed with means provided by Syldavia? Indeed, this seems unacceptable.


To recapitulate, there are two sovereign States Syldavia and Borduria claiming sovereignty over Khemed, a third populated insular territory. The three populations through their representatives agreed on sharing sovereignty over Khemed. They understand that they are dealing with many issues—i.e. activities or goods, and these many issues imply both benefits and burdens. So, to ask all of them to contribute equally and receive an equal return is not the solution. Neither is it for the better off in any given activity to contribute more and the least advantaged in any other activity to receive a larger benefit. They may either lead to domination or to continuous assistance. And because they do also know that they will maintain the agreement under the three pre-requisites, they keep their reciprocal non-interference and consider themselves reciprocally equals. In addition to this, they know it is a targeted agreement only referring to the third territory—i.e. this is not an agreement based on humanitarian reasons, domestic or global justice.

Thereby, the representatives of Khemed, Syldavia and Borduria have decided:

Khemedians, Syldavians and Bordurians have all the same right to participate in every aspect of the sovereignty over Khemed. That is to say, they all have the opportunity to present and amend proposals in relation to every aspect of the sovereignty over Khemed (egalitarian consensus principle). Khemed shares in equal portions natural resources with Syldavians and Bordurians. Syldavia shares in equal portions the means for their exploitation with Khemed and Borduria. And Borduria, because of their geographical location, will grant special privileges for both Khemedian and Syldavian enterprises only related to the exploitation of natural resources in Khemed (or any other activity but it must be related to Khemed).

Indeed, either Khemed or Borduria may have issues in exploiting at the same level of efficiency as Syldavia their shares of natural resources. Hence, Syldavia must make sure that both the other agents reach the same level of exploitation or divide the benefits resultant amongst the three parties equally in the meantime—i.e. it is a targeted shared model.

The principle can be seen in a larger picture across the board with different activities. At first, the smaller and the larger the contribution, the smaller and the larger the return respectively. But as the agreement aims to avoid domination (secure non-interference) and has a target, it is to be expected a more evenly shared contribution-return relationship amongst the parties will emerge in the long term. That is to say in the example, at first Khemed would be defended by Syldavia, and the latter would as well contribute to the exploitation of the natural resources in the island (principle of efficiency). In principle, Syldavians would receive a larger share of the resultant benefits—i.e. the larger the contribution, the larger the return since Syldavia is contributing towards both defence and exploitation of natural resources in a larger manner than the other two agents (input-to-output ratio principle). This covers the burdens-benefits part.

But, because of the targeted agreement, Syldavia must make sure both Khemed and Borduria reach relatively the same level for the defence of the third territory and the exploitation of natural resources (equilibrium proviso). It is then when the contributions amongst the three will be more even as well as the returns.

Meanwhile, and in order to lessen the gap between contributions and benefits, Bordurians could use the difference they have in their favour—i.e. geographically proximity means a more accessible bilateral commerce with Khemed, faster and possibly more effective response in case of international threat or attack, etc., things that Syldavia cannot offer.

Moreover, as the first pre-requisite prohibits interferences of any kind, and the second pre-requisite specifically protects non-political liberties, different religious beliefs between Khemedians and Bordurians could not be used for the advantage or disadvantage of any of the populations. That is because they are in a certain order of priority. In other words, the principle and the pre-requisites are lexically ordered. Therein, no transgression of: a) the non-interference or non-domination principle; b) the basic non-political liberties; and c) the principles recognised by the law of peoples, is allowed under any excuse or reason even if that means not fulfilling the ‘egalitarian shared sovereignty’ principle.

NOTE: Post based on Chapter 6, Núñez, Jorge Emilio. 2017. Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue. London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.


Jorge Emilio Núñez

9thFebruary 2018

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