In December of 1933 the International Conference of the American States was held in Montevideo, Uruguay. However, the results of this encounter continue to influence the world order of the nations, because the rules on what is intended by a State were established there. The delegates to the conclave felt that every place that had a permanent population, a defined territory, an exclusive government power and the capacity to maintain relations with other countries must be recognised as a state. In addition, in the first paragraph of this historic document clarifies that the political existence of a State is independent of its recognition by other States.
Eight decades after the Conference of Montevideo, the subject of Unrecognised Nations, qualified by some experts as de Facto States, continues to occupy an important spot in the agenda of politicians and news media, although others prefer to remain in guilty silence. The experts can’t come to an agreement on how to call de Facto States. Some call them “unknown States”, “States inside other States”, and others even arrive at saying “as though they were States”; however, more than just a question of terms, analysts agree on six characteristics that make up the concept of a de facto State.
By definition, a de facto State cannot depend on a legal legitimizing in the company of States; without a doubt, this doesn’t mean that legal certification is missing for any commission when and if it complies with the following premises: organized political leadership, with a significant popular support; in addition, this leadership must give sufficient proof of being able to govern and, especially, the capacity to control the territory, or t least most of it. The de Facto State must seek to establish relations with other States, so as to have better possibilities at receiving international recognition of its sovereignty.
The de Facto States are regulated by “Jus Cogens”, meaning, norms of international law from which there can be no derogation. Both historically as well as legally, there are unrecognised entities that have a legally correct existence (internationalized colonies, protectorates and territories) according to international law.
The list of de Facto States is getting longer and longer, because they have been capable of proving their governmental viability and their leaders have known how to control their territory. There are multiple examples: the Moldova Pridnestrovie Republic or Transnistria, the South Ossetia Republic, the Republic of Abkhazia, the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, Antarcticland, the Principality of West Antarctic and the Somaliland Republic. Taiwan could also be included in this list; since, without a doubt, it has been highly recognised internationally, experts prefer to not include it.
De Facto States and the international community need more alternatives in seeking recognition. Currently, there are three strategies in use: the so-called “Ethiopian model”, which takes its name from the negotiations used by the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi with the provisional government of Eritrea, in the early 1990s. The politico managed to separate the question of Eritrea’s final status from its relations with his government and allowed investors and foreign governments to maintain the contacts that they set up with the Eritreans.
The Second possibility is the “GATT/WTO”, English Initials for the World Trade Organisation and the organisation that precede it, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in which the members are contracting parties and not necessarily sovereign states. The two main requirements for being a member of the GATT/WTO were that a government represented a customs territory, capable of maintaining its commercial policies and would be responsible for modifying them.
Meanwhile, a possible third way is the “Taiwan model”, which comprises strengthening commercial, cultural and other links that de Facto States establish with countries that are, however, not recognised as sovereign states.
However, experts feel that these models have their limitations and no one should imitate them, because each de facto state is different; however, what remains undeniable is that, despite the isolation in which they wish to place these States, they exist and claim their legitimate right to be recognised by the international community.