Sovereign state

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A sovereign state is a name for a country where the sovereignty, or supreme ruling power, is universally recognised. The United Nations member states must be sovereign states.[1] States exist that have disputed sovereignty recognised by a limited group of countries, or have limited but not full international recognition. Many countries or nations are not classed as sovereign states; if they are of disputed government or boundaries, they may be called quasi-states.

Legal theory

The idea of sovereignty, free from outside intervention in its domestic affairs, was established in the 17th century by the Treaty of Westphalia[2] in 1918, and was endorsed by the Covenant of the League of Nations[3] and by Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations[4] in 1947 with the phrase:

"Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state...".

- but in both cases the implied prohibition against intervention was qualified by the approval of collective action to deter aggression.


There have since been scores of interventions in the domestic affairs in sovereign states, and the question of when to intervene has become a major issue in the conduct of international relations.

International organizations and national sovereignty

Some national groups believe that international organizations, such as the United Nations, threaten sovereignty.

United States

One such group is Concerned Women for America, shich is alarmed by ratification of international treaties or the consideration, by courts, of international law, on the theory that such ratification or consideration would override the U.S. Constitution. They strongly opposed the confirmation of Harold Koh as Legal Adviser to the U.S. State Department, who indeed does believe in consideration of international law. [5] CWA's positions, however, seem to equate advice and interpretation with transferring authority to the United Nations — which has no enforcement mechanism beyond those agreed-to by its sovereign member states. In the Korean War and Gulf War, there were UN resolutions supporting military action, but the forces remained under national command.

A matter of particular concern is the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to T. Jeremy Gunn, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, and a Senior Fellow in Religion and Human Rights at Emory University School of Law, sees the opposition by CWA and others as not about human rights or constitutional law per se, but

a cultural war over the perceived role of parents. While we can question the

excessiveness of their rhetoric and the inconsistencies of their arguments, it is important also to try to identify the underlying values that prompt their war metaphors and battle imagery...First, they have in mind what we might call an “idealized, conventional family” that leads them to ignore almost completely the plight of children who do not fit within this traditional family. Second, there appears to be an underlying fear that if children are allowed rights of expression and access to information, that they, as parents, will lose their children. They thus approach the question not from the perspective of the world as it comes to vulnerable children, but as parents who are attempting to shore up an image of an idealized, conventional family where two heterosexual parents are raising children in conformity with the parental ideals of religion and right behavior. The CRC opponents are unconcerned that, for vast numbers of children in the world, the problem is not the threat that the United Nations will interfere in the relationship between

parent and child, but that children do"[6]

Wayne LaPierre, of the National Rifle Association, saw United Nations discussion of an Arms Control Treaty as an attack on national sovereignty and the Second Amendment. He quoted John Bolton, who was not confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the George W. Bush Administration but had spoken against earlier drafts as interim representative,

The [Obama] Administration is trying to act as if this is really just a treaty about international trade between nations, but there's no doubt — as was the case back over a decade ago —that the real agenda here is domestic firearms control.

LaPierre wrote,

Details of the Obama/Clinton-endorsed treaty — which has not yet been finalized — will surely include international monitoring and control of every aspect of firearm commerce and ownership in the United States. [7]

He argued that "literally all of the international gun confiscation groups couch their renewed U.N. treaty effort in terms of what they call 'human rights'. But in the newspeak lexicon of the U.N., 'human rights' doesn't mean the right to self-defense as we know it."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated the position, in 2009,

On a national basis, the United States has in place an extensive and rigorous system of controls that most agree is the “gold standard” of export controls for arms transfers.[8]

without calling for additional restrictions. LaPierre, however, argued that she "did not mention the Second Amendment or U.S. sovereignty. Her silence on those seminal elements of our freedom, stands in stark contrast to the audacious defense of American liberty by President George W. Bush under Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton...[who said in July 2001] "we do not support measures that prohibit civilian possession of small arms...the United States will not join consensus on a final document that contains measures abrogating the constitutional right to bear arms."[7]