Territorial disputes: State and its elements. Government [Post 5]

So far, we know what TERRITORIAL DISPUTES are. We introduced the two key concepts of STATE and SOVEREIGNTY. We are now reviewing the main elements that form a sovereign STATE and some of their sub-elements. First, POPULATION (including language, ethnicity, religion); second, TERRITORY (including natural resources, defense, extension). It is time to refer to GOVERNMENT.

c) government: a person, group of people or body that represent the will of the population. We shall discuss here if the different ways the government may appear or the diverse persons may be considered representatives could affect in any way the existence of a State.Once clarified these points, we shall concentrate our attention in the effectiveness of what they are supposed to do and any possible limits to their actions (in diplomacy and economy).

Forms of government:

The classical tradition classifies them according depending on the number of representatives (one, a few or all) we find: monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Without entering into an analysis of the concept of “forms of government” (not the objective of this project) the intention is to simply highlight the existence of actual States fulfilling different patterns (hence, the mention of only the basic typology): from States that claim to have absolute monarchies (i.e.: Brunei, Oman, Qatar, etc.), through constitutional ones (i.e.: United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain, etc.) to representative democracies (most cases) the globe offers a wide spectrum of examples in which although the form of government differs, in all cases they are still States.

Division of powers:

It consists on the typical model in democracies (and some other forms of governments) by which the representatives of the population are divided into three different branches: executive, legislative and judicial power. Each of the three branches embodies one of the classic forms of government: the executive and the monarch; the judiciary and the aristocracy; and the legislative and the democracy.What is of interest here is the fact that there are degrees of separation of powers around the world. Consequently, to have only one central power or to have it divided into branches does not alter the existence of a State.


The financial independence of a state in relation to its peers or other agents or organizations. There are some states heavily indebted and yet they are still independent political organizations. It is true, however, that when a SOVEREIGN STATE is in this kind of situation, its government may see its internal and external decision-making processes affected.


Does it need to have its own currency so to be called State? Once more the international arena gives us the answer: with the European Union as a leading case, almost all the members share a common currency (Euro) but they still keep their character of sovereign states.


The term refers to the activity of negotiations among States linked to many and various aspects (economy, politics, law, peace and war, etc.). It is usually conducted by the head of the State and/or representatives designated to do so (diplomats). It could be considered as a mean a country has to ensure a participation in the international forum. Is it necessary to have diplomats and/or an international presence? In nowadays global reality it is highly advisable; every state needs in certain way relation with its peers so to fulfil its population’s needs. However, it is not strictly an indispensable component in order for a state to exist.

NOTE: This post is based on Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty: International Law and Politics,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020 (forthcoming)Previous published research monograph about territorial disputes and sovereignty by the author, Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017.

NEXT POST: State and its elements, law.

Friday 20th September 2019 

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @London1701

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