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Part II Introduction

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One central obstacle against prospects for global democracy and justice is state sovereignty. States interpret their sovereignty as a right to develop on their own terms and to prosper as they see fit. Usually, this means exploitation of the planet's resources and, in many instances, people, especially indigenous peoples. Internationally, states serve financial markets and corporate interests at the expense of humanity's future. How can state sovereignty be legitimate?

Arguably, state sovereignty is legitimate. It is a crucial means for controlling power, including economic power. Internally, the state's monopoly of power is vital for peaceful settlements of social conflict. Externally, sovereignty is vital for peaceful conflict resolution between states. To this end, the idea of the sovereign state and international law is indispensable. Despite all its failures and despite all aspirations for a just global order (UN) or a global community of people (world republic), states have not lost their legitimacy. Who else could guarantee procedures of fair treatment of people and fair distribution of goods?

The political debate pro and contra state sovereignty often circulates around these kinds of issues. However, for a significant part of the world's population this debate appears strangely removed from reality. To them, the legitimacy of states is irrelevant or, at least, secondary to the most fundamental right that people have, i.e. the right to live in accordance to their tradition, culture and identity. While most peoples believe that their right to self-determination is best served through a state, this may not be true for all. The Kurdish people, or the peoples of Palestine or Tibet, may prefer the idea of an independent state, but other indigenous peoples may not, as they are accustomed with own traditions of governance and alien to the idea of a sovereign state. What matters in each case, is the right to selfdetermination, guaranteed, after all, under the Charter of the United Nations.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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