There are two traditional doctrines that provide interpretations of when a de juresovereign state should be recognised as a member of the international community. The "declarative" theory defines a state as a person in international law if it meets the following criteria: 1) a defined territory; 2) a permanent population; 3) a government and 4) a capacity to enter into relations with other states. According to declarative theory, an entity's statehood is independent of its recognition by other states. By contrast, the "constitutive" theory defines a state as a person of international law if it is recognised as such by another state that is already a member of the international community.
Several entities reference either or both doctrines in order to legitimise their claims to statehood. There are, for example, entities which meet the declarative criteria (with de facto complete or partial control over their claimed territory, a government and a permanent population), but their statehood is not recognised by one or more other states. Non-recognition is often a result of conflicts with other countries that claim those entities as integral parts of their territory. In other cases, two or more partially recognised entities may claim the same territorial area, with each of them de facto in control of a portion of it (as have been the cases of the Republic of China and People's Republic of China, and North and South Korea). Entities that are recognised by only a minority of the world's states usually reference the declarative doctrine to legitimise their claims.
In many situations, international non-recognition is influenced by the presence of a foreign military force in the territory of the presumptive, self-declaring independent entity, so to make problematic the description of the country de facto status. The international community can judge this military presence too intrusive, reducing the entity to a puppet state where effective sovereignty is retained by the foreign power. Historical cases in this sense can be seen in Japanese-led Manchukuo or German-created Slovakia and Croatia before and during World War II. In the 1996 case Loizidou vs. Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights judged Turkey for having exercised authority in the territory of Northern Cyprus.
There are also entities which do not have control over any territory or do not unequivocally meet the declarative criteria for statehood but have been recognised to exist de jure as sovereign entities by at least one other state. Historically this has happened in the case of the Holy See (1870–1929), Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (during Soviet annexation), among other cases. See list of governments in exile for unrecognised governments without control over the territory claimed.
Some states do not establish relations with new nations quickly and thus do not recognise them despite having no dispute and sometimes favorable relations. These are excluded from the list. Some countries fulfill the declarative criteria, are recognised by the large majority of other nations and are members of the United Nations, but are included in the list here because one or more other states do not recognise their statehood, due to territorial claims or other conflicts. Currently there are 193 United Nations (UN) member states. The Holy See and the State of Palestine currently have observer status in the United Nations.
Some states maintain informal (officially non-diplomatic) relations with states that do not officially recognise them. The Republic of China (Taiwan) is one such state, as it maintains unofficial relations with many other states through its Economic and Cultural Offices, which allow regular consular services. This allows the ROC to have economic relations even with states that do not formally recognise it. A total of 56 states, including Germany, Italy, the United States, and the United Kingdom, maintain some form of unofficial mission in the ROC. Kosovo, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, Transnistria, Sahrawi Republic, Somaliland, and Palestine also host informal diplomatic missions, and/or maintain special delegations or other informal missions abroad.
Present geopolitical entities by level of recognition
Non-UN member states not recognised by any state
The Republic of China (ROC, also known as Taiwan), constitutionally formed in 1912, is recognised as the government of the state of China by 21 UN members and the Holy See as of 2013. All other UN member states do not officially recognise the ROC as a state; some of them regard its controlled territory as de jure part of the People's Republic of China (PRC) while some others have used careful diplomatic language to avoid taking a position as to whether the territory of the ROC is part of the PRC.[Note 1] Throughout the years, the ROC has adopted differing positions towards simultaneous recognition of the ROC and the PRC by other countries.
Israel does not recognise the state of Palestine and currently controls the areas claimed by Palestine. Since 1992, many Israeli governments have agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since 2006, every Israeli government has agreed to the state's creation, with mutually agreed land swaps.
Both the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and Morocco claim sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara. The SADR, which declared its independence in 1976, has been recognised by 84 UN member states and is a member state of the African Union. 40 states, however, have since retracted or suspended recognition, pending the outcome of a referendum on self-determination. Western Sahara is not recognised as part of Morocco by any states, but some states support the Moroccan autonomy plan. Moroccan "territorial integrity" is favoured by the Arab League. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 34/37 recognised the right of the Western Sahara people to self-determination and recognised also the Polisario Front as the representative of the Western Sahara people. Western Sahara is currently listed on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Morocco claims Western Sahara as part of its sovereign territory.
The People's Republic of China (PRC), proclaimed in 1949, is the more widely recognised of the two claimant governments of "China", the other being the Republic of China (ROC). The PRC does not accept diplomatic relations with states that recognise the ROC (21 UN members and the Holy See as of 2013). Most of these states do not officially recognise the PRC as a state, though some states have established relations with the ROC while stating they do not intend to stop recognising the PRC (Kiribati, Nauru). Some states which currently recognise only the PRC have attempted simultaneous recognition and relations with the ROC and the PRC in the past (Liberia, Vanuatu). According to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, the PRC is the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations.[Note 1]
State of Palestine, represented by the PLO, which has agreed with Israel in principle that a Palestinian state should be established within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank that are currently under Israeli control.
Entities considered to be micronations are not included.[Note 2] Even though micronations generally claim to be sovereign and independent, it is often up to debate whether a micronation truly controls its claimed territory.[Note 3] For this reason, micronations are usually not considered of geopolitical relevance. For a list of micronations, see list of micronations.
Those areas undergoing current civil wars and other situations with problems over government succession, regardless of temporary alignment with the inclusion criteria (by having control over permanently populated territory or by receiving recognition as state or legitimate government), where the conflict is still in its active phase, the situation is too rapidly changing and no relatively stable rump states have emerged yet.
^ abBoth the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China claim sovereignty over the whole of China, stating China is de jure a single sovereign entity encompassing both the area currently controlled by the PRC and the area currently controlled by the ROC. The position of individual states on this matter varies. Several states fully accept the PRC's position that there is only one China and that the PRC is the sole legitimate representative of China. Other states merely acknowledge this position, while recognising only the PRC as a state. Some states recognise only the ROC as a state, but have expressed an interest in recognition and relations with both the ROC and the PRC.
^Micronations are not included even if they are recognised by another micronation.
^It is far from certain that micronations, which are generally of minuscule size, have sovereign control over their claimed territories, contrasted with the mere disregard and indifference toward micronations’ assertions by the states from which they allege to have seceded. By not deeming such declarations (and other acts of the micronation) important enough to react in any way, these states generally consider micronations to be private property and their claims as unofficial private announcements of individuals, who remain subject to the laws of the states in which their properties are located.
^ abStaff writers (20 February 2008). "Palestinians 'may declare state'". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 2011-01-22.:"Saeb Erekat, disagreed arguing that the Palestine Liberation Organisation had already declared independence in 1988. "Now we need real independence, not a declaration. We need real independence by ending the occupation. We are not Kosovo. We are under Israeli occupation and for independence we need to acquire independence".
^Shelley, Toby (1988). "Spotlight on Morocco". West Africa (London: West Africa Publishing Company Ltd) (3712–3723: December 5–31): 2282. "...the SADR was one of the first countries to recognise the state of Palestine."
^Israel's Disengagement Plan: Renewing the Peace Process: "Israel will guard the perimeter of the Gaza Strip, continue to control Gaza air space, and continue to patrol the sea off the Gaza coast. ... Israel will continue to maintain its essential military presence to prevent arms smuggling along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt (Philadelphi Route), until the security situation and cooperation with Egypt permit an alternative security arrangement."
^"La Orden de Malta y su Naturaleza Jurídica"English language translation "The Order of Malta, within the limits that are compatible with its actual position as a subject deprived of territory, is in the international community, a sovereign entity on par with the States, and the Prince Grand Master is comparable, from the point of view of international law, to the Heads of State."
^Shaw, Malcolm Nathan International Law Fifth Edition Cambridge University Press 2003 ISBN 0-521-82473-7 p. 218 Searchable text, available via Amazon.com, "The Italian Court of Cassation in 1935 recognised the international personality of the Order, noting that ‘the modern theory of the subjects of international law recognises a number of collective units whose composition is independent of the nationality of their constituent members and whose scope transcends by virtue of their universal character the territorial confines of any single state.’ (Nanni v. Pace and the Sovereign Order of Malta 8 AD, p. 2. See also …)"
^"La Orden de Malta y su Naturaleza Jurídica"English language translation "[T]he clear territorial separation of sovereign areas that exists between the Italian State and the State of Vatican City does not exist between the Order of Malta and the Italian State, but neither can it be said that the treatment given to the headquarters of the Order (Aventine, Via Condotti) is, simply, that reserved for the headquarters of diplomatic missions accredited to the Italian State. In fact, the headquarters of the Order have diplomatic extraterritoriality (authoritarian acts of any kind – executive, acts of inspection, judicial – cannot take place inside), but in addition, the Italian State recognizes the exercise, in the headquarters, of the prerogatives of sovereignty. This means that Italian sovereignty and Maltese sovereignty coexist without overlapping, because the Order exercises sovereign functions in a wider area than occurs in the diplomatic missions of the States for, although [those diplomatic missions] enjoy extraterritoriality, the guarantees deriving from the privilege of immunity are constrained to a purely administrative area; the Order, instead, makes use of extraterritoriality to meet the very acts of sovereign self-determination that are the same as the States (legislative, judicial, administrative, financial acts)."
^Paul, Chevalier (pseudonym). "An Essay on the Order of St. John (S.M.O.M.)". Retrieved 8 October 2012 "Minuscule as it is, the Order does also possess sovereign territory. This consists of the land in Rome on which stands the Grand Magistracy in the Via Condotti and the Villa Malta".Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)