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University of Baltimore Journal of International Law

Abstract

The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States lists the four necessary qualifications in order to become a recognized state: a) permanent population; b) defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with other States.1 However, how does a territory become its own state or part of a new state if it is already a section of another state? There are two different ways this can happen: secession and annexation. While both of these processes are recognized as ways to attain statehood in international law, they are not generally accepted as viable options except in dire circumstances, such as when the people of an area are oppressed and suffering from a lack of self-determination.

Emerging from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the principles of state sovereignty and non-intervention reigned supreme.3 During this era of reformed statehood, states were in control of their own actions and responsible for governing their own citizens with no interference from outside states. As modern international rule emerged in the mid to late 1900s, the idea of a Westphalian Society started to slowly dissolve as states realized that they must cooperate with one another in order to create a more comprehensive world. Despite the modernization of statehood, there still remained the theory that states’ boundaries are etched into history forever and cannot be easily changed. This concept brings about some difficulty in attempting to annex into, or secede from, an existing state, which causes major changes in state boundaries.

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