Feb 10, 2007

the UN's commitment to national sovereignty

Stuart Elden, in "Contingent Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity and the Sanctity of Borders," argues that the UN Charter mandates respect for national sovereignty. However, the notion of what exactly constitutes sovereignty has evolved since the UN's inception.
Since the end of World War II, the international political system has been structured around three central tenets: the notion of equal sovereignty of states, internal competence for domestic jurisdiction, and territorial preservation of existing boundaries.1 The United Nations Charter underlines this in its first chapter, when it notes that
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use offeree against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations (Article 2, Paragraph 4).2
Other articles of the founding Charter, as well as Security Council and General Assembly resolutions since, have continually stressed these central founding principles. They are interrelated in that the notion of territorial integrity means both territorial preservation and territorial sovereignty, and political independence requires both exclusive internal and equal external sovereignty.
Along the way, Elden, after Krasner, outlines four kinds of sovereignty.
Interdependence sovereignty refers to the ability of a government to regulate the movement of goods, capital, people, and ideas across its borders. Domestic sovereignty refers both to the structure of authority within a state and to the state's effectiveness or control. International legal sovereignty refers to whether a state is recognized by other states, the basic rule being that only juridically independent territorial entities are accorded recognition. Westphalian sovereignty, which actually has almost nothing to do with the Peace of Westphalia, refers to the autonomy of domestic authority structures-that is, the absence of authoritative external influences. A political entity can be formally independent but de facto deeply penetrated. A state might claim to be the only legitimate enforcer of rules within its own territory, but the rules it enforces might not be of its own making.16...

The challenge to these semi-absolute notions of sovereignty has come from a number of sources. International law has provided a number of conditions that states must adhere to, either as a condition of membership of the United Nations or through other agreements into which they have entered. For some the European Union project has eroded sovereignty. For others it is a response to globalization and the increasingly interdependent world. Both sides tend to recognize that absolute sovereignty is a chimera and that international agreements of many kinds have created a system in which sovereignty is necessarily pooled, interdependent and limited. However, even the United Nations requires the "necessary fiction" of sovereignty as a means of structuring international relations-particularly relating to the question of boundaries.
Read the whole thing in the Winter 2006 issue of SAIS Review. This is a must-read article for the current resolution, especially since it distinguishes four definitions of sovereignty, any of which leads to new directions for the aff or neg.

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