Better known as the Convention of Montevideo, the Convention on the rights and duties of States is an international treaty signed in the capital of Uruguay on December 26, 1933, on the occasion of celebrating the Seventh international Conference of the American States in this South American nation. The convention was signed by 19 States, three with reserves (United States, Brazil and Peru).
It was at this scene that the recently elected president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Secretary of State Cordell Hull made the Good Neighbor Policy public, absolutely opposed to United States in matters of other countries in the American hemisphere, Roosevelt’s first diplomatic attempt to revert the perception of “Yankee imperialism”, prevailing since the Rio Bravo a la Patagonia by Theodore Roosevelt and his “Big Stick” policy. The Convention of Montevideo established the definition of State, as well as their rights and obligations, its first article becoming the best known conceptualization and established four criteria characteristic of a State, those that since then have been recognised as a definite affirmation in habitual International Law.
The State as an entity of International Law must meet the following requirements:
a) Permanent population;
b) Defined Territory;
d) Capacity of entering into relations with the other States.
Likewise, the first sentence of Article 3 states explicitly that “The political existence of the State is independent of its recognition by the other States.” Some question both the sufficiency of these criteria as well as that it allows statehood to entities universally unrecognised like the People’s Republic of China or even for States without any recognition like the Principality of Sealand or the Principality of West Antarctic.
According to the corporative theory of a State, this only exists when it is recognised as such by other States. On occasion, there have been attempts to expand the Convention of Montevideo’s original definition, but without positive results.
On the other hand, some non-territorial entities, with the noteworthy example of the Order of Malta, are considered de facto as subjects of International Law; however, they don’t aspire to statehood. Regarding everything that has been written here, the main statement of the European Union’s (EU) Badinter Committee follows the designs of the Convention of Montevideo in their definition of state, “for having a territory, population and political authority.” The committee also concluded that the existence of States was a de facto question, whereas recognition by others is only a declarative factor and not determinant of statehood.
Switzerland, though not belonging to the EU, accepts the same principle, and expands upon it stating that “a political unity doesn’t need to be recognised to become a state, nor does a state have the obligation to recognise another. At the same time, recognition isn’t enough to create a State nor does its absence suppress it.”
At present, States are recognised by the United Nations only for the convenience of the great powers, as in the case of Kosovo, recognised in just a few months.