Recognition of unilateral secession

Authored by: Aleksandar Pavković

Routledge Handbook of State Recognition

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815354871
eBook ISBN: 9781351131759
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the recognition of unilateral secession in world politics. Unilateral secession is considered a state birth in breach of the territorial integrity and political unity of the base state. Drawing on relevant case studies, this chapter shows that states emerging from unilateral secession may result in securing limited bilateral recognition by other states, but not the host states; non-recognition by any UN member state; reintegration into the host state by armed force; or achieving universal recognition with the consent of the base state. The chapter also shows that the transformation of a unilateral secession into a consensual one appears to be the most certain path to the widespread recognition and admission to the UN. However, a unilateral secession, on its own, has little prospect of gaining widespread international recognition unless it is sponsored by a major power (such as India or the US) capable of lobbying other states to secure its recognition.

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