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1.1       Background to the Study

The term recognition implies a process whereby a person or an entity admits to the existence or the being of another person, entity or state of affairs. The Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary defines the concept as a sign, token or indication of acknowledgment of a thing or a state of being in relation to nation state.1 State recognition is one of the oldest practice in international relations, and one of the most vexed concepts in international law since the middle ages, political communities have interacted with each other as sovereign, territorial states under an accepted system of rules. Determining which entity is to be recognized as state subject to these rules has hence been a basic component of international relations. As such, it is one of the most common discussed topics in the international law literatures.2 Recognition of statehood grants an entity international legal personality and binds it to comfort it according to the rules established by international law in its relations with other states and peoples. At the same time, it makes the entity eligible to enter into treaties and alliances with other states as well as to participate in the development and enforcement of international law. Most importantly recognition is an affirmation of an entity‘s right to territorial sovereignty and integrity and its right to exercise coercive jurisdiction within this territory.

The right and powers attached to statehood make it desirable for a political entities to attain such a status, at the same time the expectation that each new state will abide by the rule of international law makes it desirable to include as many qualified political entities as possible in so far as this will further the goals of peace and stability.3 While in conformity with the above the Monte Video Convention of 1933 made a preliminary attempt to codify specific descriptive criteria for statehood thus:

(1) Permanent Population

(2) Define territory

(3) Functional government able to control the territory

(4) Capacity to enter into relation with other state voluntarily

Together these four requirements defined a state and presumably any entity aspiring independent statehood that met these criteria would automatically be regarded as a state under international law. However and unfortunately the present practice of recognition is not in conformity with the above criteria. According to the present recognition an entity is considered a state to the extent that other state recognized it as such, since new state cannot exercise  right and obligation against state that do not recognize it. For example taking into consideration the case of Palestine, applying the Montevideo criteria for statehood, it becomes clear that Palestine should be considered a state and also be recognized, as it has a permanent population, concentrated in a defined territory, a functional representative 3 Erticle 3 of Monte video Convention (1933).


1 McDonald, A.M. (1972) Chambers Twentieth Dictionary, 1 & A Constable Ltd., p. 1128

2 Maraina O. Secession, Statehood and Recognition: Princeton University pdf document available at Accessed on 27/2/2013


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