Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty
International Law and Politics
There are many disputes in which international agents claim exclusive and conflicting sovereign rights over the same territory. These confrontations have a particular feature: their solution seems to require a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive relationship between the agents because only one of them will gain acknowledged sovereignty over the territory under dispute, a sovereignty the other must acknowledge. Indeed, sovereignty is an absolute concept: exclusive and not shareable.
Contemporary events such as the rise of the Islamic State and the failure and potential dismemberment of states from the Caucasus to the Middle East mean that recognition of sovereignty as a binding legal norm is not static within a nation; but the concept of transferable, shared sovereignty remains a major unresolved topic in international law, international politics and international relations. Events such as the Ukrainian Crisis and Russia’s foray into Crimea demonstrate that sovereignty is dynamic and fluid, flowing at times from one country to another by some event of political restructuring within the international community or the shifting sands of geopolitics.
The issues at stake in these disputes are highly complex, with domestic, regional and international components of varying potency. Although these differences are commonly described in legal and political sciences as territorial disputes, the nomenclature does not reflect their complexity and makes evident the superficial nature of the assessment.
International relations and legal and political scholarly literature offer potential remedies to solve sovereignty conflicts. These include independence, self-determination and free association. Although these remedies are useful in certain conflicts, they are futile in others. First, the assumptions, concepts and consequences one discipline may take as self-evident, logically coherent and scientifically binding may be exclusive to that community of experts and not necessarily shared by the broader scientific society or the entities in a sovereignty conflict. Hence, many conflicts remain unresolved and in a legal and political limbo. Second, studies in relation to these disputes and possible remedies for them are limited because they center only on a particular conflict or region. With this fragmented analysis of territorial disputes (fragmented because of the methodology of the science of reference, and the object of study) outcomes are inevitably of limited significance in theory and in practice.
This monograph aims to fill a major gap in law and political science, and to provide a global and inter-disciplinary study of territorial disputes that can develop general guidelines for dispute settlement and conflict resolution that current remedies fail to offer.
There are two premises underlying this research on territorial disputes and state sovereignty. First, a better understanding of international conflict requires a global and inter-disciplinary assessment. At present, scholarly literature on these differences tends to focus on a conflict, a region or a discipline. Two important consequences of this focus are that territorial disputes are not examined in their full complexity and that elements common to many of these disputes are not identified. This book addresses both these gaps.
The second focus is to define a set of key conceptual elements for the evaluation of territorial disputes in order to integrate findings from many studies and develop more general theories of international law and politics. Theoretical frameworks provide the hermeneutical means to generalize behavior in a clear, cohesive, and concise manner. They also enable subsequent studies to sharpen their focus and identify more clearly variables that may appear to be particular to a certain dispute but in fact have wider application.
This book integrates two approaches to the study of international relations, the modified realist model and case studies, to generate hypotheses about territorial disputes and state sovereignty. The modified realist model allows the consideration of the simultaneous impact of domestic- and international-level variables. Examination of case studies lets us test the generated hypotheses. If these approaches to studying international relations can be integrated, the resulting theoretical framework should have considerable power to support better understanding of territorial disputes. At the same time, these theoretical models can be carefully subjected to empirical analysis.
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Tuesday 09th June 2020
Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez