Article 8

8.1.2 Sovereign equality


The Peace of Westphalia is generally regarded as the historical milestone paving the way for a new era of international relations based on the principles of sovereign independence and equality. This was made possible by the rise of the nation state in Europe which ultimately created a novel kind of society among equal (state) communities.231 Sovereign equality is one of the tenets of the international legal order, since it has to be regarded as the cornerstone of the rights and duties of states. It consists of two basic premises:

(1) Jurisdiction over a territory and a permanent population living there;

(2) Non-intervention in the area of exclusive jurisdiction of another state. From the concept of sovereign equality flow several other important principles (e.g. the right to independence and the ban on the use of force). It should also be noted that sovereign equality – as a legal concept – does not guarantee political and economic equality, since international law operates in an environment that is influenced by hegemonic power. However, sovereign equality can be described as ‘equality of chances’ of all states.

231 See J Kokott, ‘States, Sovereign Equality’ in Max Planck Encyclopaedia of Public International Law.

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