Sovereign state, De facto and de jure states

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A sovereign state is a nonphysical juridical entity of the international legal system that is represented by one centralized government that has supreme independent authority over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither dependent on nor subject to any other power or state. The existence or disappearance of a state is a question of fact. While according to the declarative theory of state recognition a sovereign state can exist without being recognised by other sovereign states, unrecognised state


Most sovereign states are states de jure and de facto (i.e. they exist both in law and in reality). However, sometimes states exist only as de jure states in that an organisation is recognised as having sovereignty over and being the legitimate government of a territory over which they have no actual control. Many continental European states maintained governments-in-exile during the Second World War which continued to enjoy diplomatic relations with the Allies, notwithstanding that their countries were under Nazi occupation. The State of Palestine, which is recognized by most states doesn't have control over any of its claimed territory in Palestine and possess only extraterritorial areas (i.e. embassies and consulates). Other states may have sovereignty over a territory but lack international recognition; these are considered by the international community to be only de facto states (they are considered de jure states only according to their own Law and by states that recognize them). Somaliland is commonly considered to be such a state. For a list of entities that wish to be universally recognized as sovereign states, but do not have complete worldwide diplomatic recognition, see the list of states with limited recognition.

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External Links

  • WikipediaOpinions of the Badinter Arbitration CommitteeA Brief Primer on International LawWhat constitutes the sovereign state?

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