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“They start by acting like real countries, then hope to become them”

January 6, 2010

At Foreign Policy, Graeme Wood writes about the handful of countries struggling to gain official sovereignty:

These quasi-states — which range from decades-old international flashpoints like Palestine, Northern Cyprus, and Taiwan to more obscure enclaves like Transnistria, Western Sahara, Puntland, Iraqi Kurdistan, and South Ossetia — control their own territory and operate at least semifunctional governments, yet lack meaningful recognition. Call them Limbo World. They start by acting like real countries, and then hope to become them.

In years past, such breakaway quasi-states tended to achieve independence fast or be reassimilated within a few years (usually after a gory civil war, as with Biafra in Nigeria). But today’s Limbo World countries stay in political purgatory for longer — the ones in this article have wandered in legal wilderness for an average of 15 years — representing a dangerous new international phenomenon: the permanent second-class state.

Wood fears what he believes this trend implies: secession, geopolitical pockets that breed violence and (the horror!) countries without seats in the U.N.. All of these quasi-countries are poor, unstable, and/or war-torn. I doubt their sovereign status is the cause of that. Still, Wood acknowledges the high price of new entry in the market for governance:

Carving land from other countries is nearly always bloody and in most cases leaves borders that bleed for decades. Somaliland and Abkhazia have existed for almost 20 years, with little indication that widespread recognition is imminent.

The article also explores the burgeoning market in sovereignty, something we’ve covered a bit before. Read the whole thing. (HT: Abel Winn)

  1. Dog of Justice permalink
    January 9, 2010 7:42 am

    Er, Taiwan is qualitatively quite different from the rest… at the very least, I don’t see how “poor”, “unstable”, or “war-torn” apply very well to it.

    • Mike Gibson permalink*
      January 12, 2010 2:37 am

      That is very true.

  2. January 7, 2010 12:25 am

    Forgetting of course that nobody’s going to recognise the Somali government when Somalis don’t even recognise them…

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