Non-Recognized States: “Internal Legitimacy” is Important

By Dr. Aleksandr KRYLOV *
Chairman of the Scientific society of experts in Caucasian studies

The non-recognized states are a new historic phenomenon. Their emergence initially relates to the collapse of the multinational colonial empires after the WWII, and some time later, with the dissolution of the multi-ethnic Soviet Union andYugoslavia. Before to the Kosovo precedent, the international community refused to recognize such states in case if the “metropolitan state”, a UN member, denied it.

However, by various reasons, the mentioned states could be recognized by individual members of the UN. Quite often such states, out of ethnic, confessional solidarity and the intention to make more trouble for  a “rival” neighbor, provided them with political, financial and military assistance.

Non-recognized states have got different fates

Option 1. Some of them have been militarily crushed.  Such was the fate of theRepublicofBiafrain 1970. This country proclaimed its independence in 1967, was recognized by several neighboring African states and got military aid fromRhodesia, SAR andFrance.  In 1976, in the northern and eastern parts of Sri-Lanka, the state of Tamil-Ilam was proclaimed. Not recognized by any country in the world, it was able to resist not only the Lankan army, but also the Indian expedition corps. It took the Sri-Lankan Government a lot of effort to crush Tamil-Ilam in 2009.

In December 1991, the Republic of Serbska Krayna (RSK) was proclaimed; it was crushed down by the Croatian army in 1995. The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in the Russian NorthCaucasuswas another example of that kind.

Has the level of democracy and state institute in the non-recognized state or in the “metropolitan state” been any important in case of the military solution of the problem? The answer is obvious: no, in the real life it has not been important at all. In many respects Biafra was much more consistent thanNigeriathat defeated Biafra because of the difference in military potentials of the parties and external factors (Nigeriagot decisive support from the Soviet Union andUnited Kingdom).

Option 2.  The “partially recognized” non-recognized states continue existing in the world: Abkhazia, Kosovo, TRNC, the Sahara Arab democratic Republic (SADR), theSouth Ossetia, etc. There are also some other specific examples:PalestineandTaiwan, refusing to recognize the legitimacy of their “metropolitan states.”  These states have been recognized by individual members of the UN, but not the UN as an organization.  It happened by various reasons, but one thing is obvious: the level of democracy or state institutes has not played any role in it.

So if the “partially recognized” states succeeded in getting a full-fledged international recognition, it would occur not because of their compliance with the democratic standards or successfully functioning states institutes, but by absolutely other reasons. Let say, if theUSAwith its allies in the EU managed to makeSerbiarecognize Kosovo, would it be because of the higher level of democratization inSerbiaor, vice versa, in Kosovo? Certainly, not.  An obvious example is the non-recognized states, which have got international recognition, becoming full UN members, and posing another option for development of the non-recognized states.

Option 3:Eritrea, the East Timor and theSouthern Sudan. All these states have won the long-lasting wars for independence and forced the governments ofEthiopia,IndonesiaandSudanto recognize their independence. Eritreans, for example, achieved their goals not only through the war that started in 1961, but also toppling the ruling regime inEthiopiain 1991 and   bringing their political allies to power there. The main factor in the international recognition of the mentioned states was the balance of forces of the parties to the conflict and the concrete situation in the international arena, favorable for the states, which were non-recognized entities not long before.

Option 4. And finally, the last group of non-recognized states, so called “hundred percent non-recognized” ones, which have not got formal recognition by any state. In the post-Soviet area they are NKR and TMR. Some similar states continue to exist in Asia andAfrica:  more than a dozen of such entities can be found on the territory of the former Somalian republic. There have not been any signs so far that the level of development of these states will have a significant impact on their future legal recognition by the international community.

Non-recognized Somaliland (former British colony of Somali) is much more successful and consistent in all spheres than theRepublicofSomali, so stubbornly recognized by the international community, despite being on the verge of collapse and anarchy. The formally non-recognized Somaliland has diplomatic relations with theUnited Kingdom,Belgium,Ghana, SAR,SwedenandDjibouti.Ethiopiahas an embassy in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, and the transit fromEthiopiaand back goes through the local sea-ports…

In 2007 the European Union sent a delegation toSomalilandto discuss the prospects for further development of relations. Later on a special representative of the African Union visited that non-recognized state to discuss the issues, related to its international recognition. However, since then the situation has not changed: the actually collapsedRepublicofSomali, a safe haven for pirates, still enjoys the UN recognition, meanwhile much more stable and successfulSomalilandexists without it.

The first conclusion from the above is that it is the military-political balance of the parties to the conflict that still plays a decisive role from the view of perspective of the international recognition of various non-recognized or “partially recognized” states; in addition to the international situation and first of all the perception of the problem by the main global actors and neighboring states. In this sense, the situation will hardly change in the foreseeable future.

The second conclusion:  despite all that, the level of democracy and state institutions, the extent of the socio-economical success of the non-recognized states is still extremely important. First of all it is explained by the truth that the more successfully the political, social and economic problems are addressed in the non-recognized state, the more difficult it would be to carry out any scenario aimed at crushing down such an entity. Otherwise, the idea of independence can lose the attraction among the local population, if the leadership of the non-recognized state lost the social support, enabling to create favorable conditions for restoration of the “constitutional order on the insurgent territory” by all possible means.

Thus, from the view of the historic perspective, the level of democracy and state institutes within the non-recognized countries acquire no less importance than the military and international factors. At some historical stage, the “internal legitimacy” may be much more important than the international recognition.

The peculiarity of the current international situation is in the fact that being a member of the Organization of United Nations, the authority and influence of which is increasingly falling down in the world, has substantially lost its value and cannot serve as a guarantee from the external intervention. The fate of Serbia, Iraq, Libya and other states, as well as the current “Arab spring” are the evidence that  the problem of the “internal legitimacy” is becoming more pressing also for many  internationally “hundred percent recognized” states.

* Dr. Aleksandr KRYLOV[1] – Chairman of the Scientific society of experts in Caucasian studies, expert of theInstitute ofWorld Economy and International Relations of Russian Academy of Sciences.



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