Secession, recognition & the international politics of statehood

by 1977- Coggins, Bridget L.

Abstract (Summary)
Secessionist regimes universally seek other States' formal recognition. Indeed, a ‘critical mass’ of external recognition must be achieved before any secessionist actor is considered a full member of international society. Yet Statesmen often disagree about what distinguishes a legitimate from an illegitimate claim to sovereign independence. The contest among States over the appropriate response to Yugoslavia’s secessionists provides but one recent example. While the motives for seeking other States' recognition are easily understood, the reasons established members of the system choose to recognize some and ignore other recognition-seeking actors are not. There is no obvious pattern to the external recognition of Statehood. Slovenia quickly won a secessionist war against its Yugoslav Home State to gain its independence, but Croatia was in the midst of its war when it was recognized. On the other hand, Somaliland has governed itself over a decade since it successfully broke from Somalia, yet has received no formal recognition from the international community. There is a wide variation in domestic capacity at the point of recognition; many secessionist regimes with de facto independence remain unrecognized while regimes with shaky claims to sovereignty are sometimes embraced as States. ii Common wisdom within the IR literature asserts States will act on their own political motives rather than normative standards of capacity when questions of sovereignty arise. Such interest-based explanations raise more questions than they answer. Which self-interests guide States' recognition decisions? What happens when domestic motives conflict with geostrategic imperatives? Do all States confer recognition based upon similar criteria or do different States use different criteria? What, if any, influence do international norms have upon States’ decisions? Generally, what accounts for the variance between the few actors that are formally recognized and deemed sovereign independent States and the many that receive little or no formal recognition and are not allowed equivalent participation in the interstate system? I tackle these questions using an original data set of secessionist movements and Great Power recognition decisions between 1931 and 2002. I conceive of Statehood as the result of a threshold model in which Great Power recognition is the most influential determinant of success or failure. I utilize event history analysis and case studies to test explanations derived from the literature, as well as my own hypotheses, regarding whether and when Great Powers will recognize secessionist regimes. I argue that the manifest pattern of new States belies the international legal standards for recognition. And additionally, that individual States’ political motives insufficiently explain why potential members are accepted or rejected by the international community. Instead, the strategic interactions among States must also be considered. States do not make their recognition decisions in a vacuum, they are interdependent and they rarely recognize unilaterally. Though the Great Powers are generally reticent to recognize secessionists’ legitimacy, there are a number of conditions under which recognition becomes an attractive choice. iii
Bibliographical Information:


School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:recognition international law state succession secession civil war ethnic conflict former communist countries yugoslavia


Date of Publication:

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