De facto states research unit

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What if you follow the traffic signs but never reach the place due to “foreign” presence, which has lasted already for decades? Get as close as possible, take a spy-glass, climb up to the watch tower and have a look at what is beyond the “no-man’s-land”, behind the barbwire fences and mental barriers. If you are lucky, you might see some anomalous and deviant cases routinely operating on the other side. Furthermore, a constant struggle for survival and recognition do not remain unnoticed to your investigative eyes. Welcome to the world of de facto states! 

In our view, de facto states are entities that fulfill the Montevideo criteria for statehood, but lack international recognition. We exclude Palestine and Western Sahara, because they do not have full control over their territories. Although Republika Srpska and Iraqi Kurdistan function as de facto independent states, these entities do not explicitly claim to be independent and therefore are left out as well. South Ossetia may have full control over its territory and even some international recognition, but its governance is outsourced and left in the hands of occupying forces.

Why study these places that legally speaking “do not exist”? Due to their geographical location and the stakes involved, these territories hold considerable power as custodians of geopolitical fault lines and they have the potential to disrupt the strategic balance of the entire region and even the international system. One shouldn’t expect to see de facto states disappearing. Quite to the contrary, blurred international norms create favourable conditions for politically inspired interpretations of what is a state and how to become a state. De Facto States Research Unit provides expertise about places that, legally speaking, “do not exist”.

Blog posts

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The Somaliland-Ethiopia Memorandum of Understanding: Transformational Game Changer or… Not So Fast?

        Earlier this month, Bashe Awil Haji Omar, the chairman of the technical committee charged with implementing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by Somaliland and Ethiopia declared that the first phase of the committee’s work had …

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Overview of 2023: De Facto States’ Quest for Survival and Viability

  The De Facto States Research Unit looks back at the developments in the lesser recognised world in 2023. In every year we have published such overviews (2021, 2022), we have seen the world around de facto states and secessionist …

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Navigating the Cross-Strait Waters: The 2024 Taiwan Presidential Elections and the Evolving China-Taiwan Dynamics

       The 2024 Presidential Elections in Taiwan marked a significant event not just within its own borders, but also in the intricate web of global geopolitics. As a pivotal democracy in East Asia, Taiwan’s electoral decisions, especially regarding …

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