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States In International Law
In modern times there are 185 States which are members of the United Nations. There are a small number of states that are not members of the UN, but most are. What is a state? While it is states that make international law, international law, adopted by states, offers a widely accepted definition of what amounts to a state. The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, in 1933, spelled out four elements:

1. A permanent population

2. A defined territory

3. An effective government

4. The capacity to enter into relations with other states

We can add a fifth element: recognition. A community of people may satisfy the four requirements listed in the Montevideo Convention, but it will not be treated as a free-standing state until other states choose to treat it as a state. This is a process known as 'recognition'.

The political map of the world has changed over the years, and it continues to change. Sometimes a single state may break up into separate units. Recent examples include the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. Sometimes two or more separate states may come together in a single state. A recent example was the reunion of West Germany and East Germany.

Sometimes one state may take over another state, or a territory that belongs to another state. One recent example was Indonesia's 1975 takeover of East Timor, which had been a colony of Portugal.
Keywords: Europe, International law, United Nations, 1933

Author: Nettheim, Garth