Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty
International Law and Politics
Chapter Five: Dispute settlement
There are many ways to solve territorial disputes. International law, politics and diplomatic relations offer an array of remedies that go from negotiation and mediation to intervention of international organizations and bodies such as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. The resolution of a territorial dispute may be independence, the acknowledgment of self-determination, free association, or any of several other outcomes.
Despite the existence of legal norms that establish procedures to deal with territorial disputes, the political means to tackle them, and a variety of potential solutions, many territorial disputes remain unresolved. In addition, regardless of a limited understanding of sovereignty, which is, by definition, shareable, it is not uncommon that the challenger and the challenged agents in a territorial dispute take absolute and uncompromising stances and, therefore, prefer the legal and political limbo offered by the status quo than entering into discussions with the goal of attaining a peaceful and permanent settlement.
This chapter discusses the main remedies applied at the international level in territorial disputes and why these alternatives are not the solution to some well-known and long-standing differences. Some of these remedies have been and are effective in situations where the challenger and challenged agents leave aside reasons that otherwise would only guarantee an endless dispute and, potentially, escalation into conflict. However, these same remedies fail to observe the intricate essence of some territorial disputes.
This monograph acknowledges the circumstances that seem to make some territorial disputes unresolvable. In tune with the previous chapter, the starting point is the recognition that territorial disputes present several issues in domestic, regional and international contexts. By focusing on one or a few issues and one context only at the expense of the other two, most of these remedies fail to note the complexity behind some territorial disputes. The chapter finishes by introducing egalitarian shared sovereignty as a means to deal with the multi-level and multi-faceted quality of these disputes.
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