After reading this chapter, you should understand the following:
- The concepts of sovereignty, self-determination, failed states, and failing states
- The sources of international law, and examples of treaties, conventions, and customary international law
- How civil-law disputes between the parties from different nation-states can be resolved through national court systems or arbitration
- The well-recognized bases for national jurisdiction over various parties from different nation-states
- The doctrines of forum non conveniens, sovereign immunity, and act of state
The force and authority of a government in any given territory is fundamental to sovereignty. Historically, that was understood to mean a nation’s “right” to issue its own currency, make and enforce laws within its borders without interference from other nations (the “right of self-determination” that is noted in the Charter of the United Nations), and to defend its territory with military force, if necessary. In a nation at relative peace, sovereignty can be exercised without great difficulty. But many countries are in civil war, and others experience “breakaway” areas where force must be used to assert continued sovereignty. In some countries, civil war may lead to the formation of new nation-states, such as in Sudan in 2011.
Thumbnail: The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, which is the seat of the International Court of Justice. (Public Domain; Yeu Ninje via Wikipedia)