Saturday, May 23, 2009

So, You Want to Be a State

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.

So much has been written and said about the situation near the Mediterranean Sea. So many suggestions and each one has failed in its purpose. Analysis of these attempts indicates that they make certain assumptions that either cannot be agreed upon by both sides and are thus imposed upon both sides or perhaps the assumptions are incorrect. Some people state this is an issue of territory. Others indicate it is all about moral equivalency-an entire people have been displaced and now the international community must make amends. This piece makes no attempt to alter each reader's perception of the aforementioned concepts. For the sake of argument I am assuming we have found common agreement on the reasons why another nation state must be created.

Seems to me that there are certain requirements for an entity to possess as it makes a request to enter the world community of nations. What might some of the requirements be?

An independent State:

  • Has space or territory that has internationally recognized boundaries (boundary disputes are OK).

  • Have people who live there on an ongoing basis.

  • Has economic activity and an organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.

  • Has the power of social engineering, such as education.

  • Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.

  • Has a government, which provides public services and police power.

  • Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country's territory.

  • Has external recognition. A country has been "voted into the club" by other countries.1

Nations are culturally homogeneous groups of people, larger than a single tribe or community, which share a common language, institutions, religion, and historical experience. When a nation of people has a State or country of their own, it is called a nation-state.1

Ah, but it is not this simple. Many individuals suggest that nations, states and countries are all the same. However, others take exception to this simplistic rationalization. They are not the same. The problem arises because there isn't a universally agreed definition of 'country' and because, for political reasons, some countries find it convenient to recognize or not recognize other countries.2

It is reasonable to ask, how is a country defined? Typically you discover that one of three methods is used to define if a group is a country:

1. The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States was a treaty signed at Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 26 1933.

The convention set out the definition, rights and duties of statehood. Most well-known is Article 1, which set out four criteria for statehood, as quoted below.

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications:
(a) a permanent population;
(b) a defined territory;
(c) government; and
(d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

Article 3 of the Convention also declares that statehood is independent of recognition by other states, so a country can exist even if other countries don't recognize it.

2. The Declarative theory of statehood is based on the 4 criteria specified in the Montevideo Convention.

3. The constitutive theory of statehood defines a state or country as a person of international law if, and only if, it is recognized as sovereign by other states. This means that so long as enough other countries recognize you as a country, you ARE a country, even if you don't have control over your territory or a permanent population.2

It does appear that the following component is necessary for a group a state or nation: A region, territory, or large tract of land distinguishable by features of topography, biology, or culture.

One can write a treatise on this topic alone and it may not get us any closer to resolving the ME difficulties by the Sea. One can argue, and many have, that there is no such group called Palestinians. Of course as human beings people exist, it has been argued that until 1967 what are known now, as Palestinians are descendants of tribal Arabs living in this region of the world. They fail the test of commonality required to make application for a nation or a state. I leave that for others to discuss.

It does seem to me that the international community must first ask itself to define the requisite components a group of people must possess, that are necessary to assume the title of state, nation or country. After all we have identified the necessary criteria for securing bank loans, business loans, for becoming members of Olympic teams, for adopting children, for declaring food safe to eat and water safe to drink. We have created criteria for acceptance into social clubs-why now does the international community not apply the same reasoning to this situation? Instead, the politically expedient action is to simply insist on the "two-state solution."

Currently states are and/or have made application to the European Union. In 1993, the EU held a meeting in Copenhagen and created political criteria for new members- Here is the agreed upon membership criteria requirements that the candidate country must have achieved:

  • Stability of institutions

  • Guaranteeing democracy,

  • Rule of law,

  • Human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities?"

Can you honestly say that the Palestinian Authority state even remotely meets such criteria? What moral justification is there, then, for forcing a vulnerable Israel, threatened by an irredentist Palestinian state, to help establish it when a powerful European Union refuses to take much smaller risks in the case of Turkey?3 So I call upon all of those "2-state solutioners" (OK, no such word) to take several steps back, define the necessary criteria for any entity to become a recognized and accepted state and then begin the analysis with respect to the disputed territory issue-by the Sea. After consensus is reached on the criteria, should this not be followed by a time period in which said entity demonstrates adherence to the criteria? If not, why? We certainly demand this of every other human behavior. This idea of nation or state identity involves a process. By definition then this means a change from one condition to another and this requires time. Therefore, the next step is to clearly identify the behavioral condition changes and create a timeline that supports the condition to be realized. It is at this point and only at this point that a state, demonstrating any integrity, can be formed. I say, let's get to it.


1. Matt Rosenberg, "Defining an Independent Country,"

2. "What is a country, and how is a country defined?" The geography site,

3. Daniel Doron, Say No To A Palestinian State, May 16, 2009,

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