In political science, sovereignty is a concept that gives governments the autonomous mandate of making decisions affecting the state, as well as maintaining order within its borders. The fact that not all states are governed in an ideal way, coupled with the interrelations between different nations, forming the international community, has raised issues around sovereignty. The need to protect universal human rights supersedes individual country’s claim to sovereignty. On the same note, the pursuit of global peace can justify interventions from international actors when one country’s sovereign decision may have adverse effects on another. Therefore, sovereignty should only apply when a country’s actions and decisions are in line with global goals and objectives such as promoting peace, respecting human rights, and combating transnational crimes.
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As established, one of the primary objectives of sovereignty is to ensure order within a state. In turn, peaceful states will form the building blocks for a diplomatic international community. Using this analogy, discord within a state can affect the peace and stability of the entire globe. As a result, powerful governments and international organizations are increasingly taking up the role of monitoring volatile countries to prevent the escalation of domestic and cross-border conflicts that may threaten the stability of the world. This is in line with Krasner’s argument, which claims that external entities such as trustees, regional and international entities, or powerful governments are required to oversee the actions of some sovereign powers (103).
Countries in the middles-east provide an excellent example of the potential dangers of sovereignty. For a long time, the region has been described as a political melting pot due to the frequency of armed conflicts. Civil wars and inter border struggles continue to erupt in the region. In the recent past, a civil war in Syria led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the country. Millions more have been displaced from their homes, creating a humanitarian crisis around the globe as other countries struggle to accommodate the resulting refugees. Since the civil war is being fought between a multitude of sides, including the Syrian government led by President Bashar al Al-Assad, it has significantly affected the state’s operations, creating a failed state. Further still, some of the parties involved in the fight for control of the country have been linked to terror organizations, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), the war in Syria is understandably drawing attention from the international community. For instance, the U.S’s participation in the conflict was intended to eliminate the threat that the notorious terror group ISIL presented in their home country. On the other hand, Turkey has joined the war with the aim of procuring and securing a sufficient size of land where it can resettle the millions of refugees who have fled into the country.
Sovereignty can also work against a country when it fails to contain crimes, especially those committed by organized gangs. Drugs and related crimes have plagued Central and South America for an extended period of time. In Mexico, the government has been overpowered by dangerous drug cartels. As a result, the cartels have been able to grow their drug empires, over and above constantly terrorizing innocent civilians. The government’s failure to deal with these cartels and the drug trade has jeopardized people in the country and across its northern border, in America. There have been cases of drug-related massacres in Mexico, demonstrating the violent extent of the illegal trade. Up to now, the number of civilian deaths attributed to drugs in Central and South America is astonishing. Across the border, the drugs smuggled from Central and South America and sold to the public have had a visibly negative impact on society. In response, the American government has taken an active role in the war against drugs in an effort to protect its citizens. According to Naim, the U.S. government spends an estimated $35 to $40 billion in this war, demonstrating its commitment (30). There are several factors that make the drug trade involving the South and North America extremely complex, especially for the governments in the South. The criminal gangs participating in the trade deal in a plethora of illegal products. For instance, some of the drugs shipped into North America is exchanged with deadly weapons. This explains why the gangs have overwhelmed governments in their respective countries. In addition to the deadly assault weapons, the gangs are also responsible for trafficking people across the border, affecting the immigration policies of the U.S. Therefore, the U.S. government has more than one reason to become involved in the domestic affairs of these countries as what transpired there directly impacts their well-being.
In some cases, sovereign governments are denying their citizens their fundamental rights and freedoms. Essentially, governments should represent the will of the people. Moreover, the ideologies and principles held and enforced by the government should have a positive impact on the people it represents. Communist governments have been accused of neglecting the interests of the individual citizen for superficial collective goals. In doing this, the state exposes a section of its population to suffering without being held accountable. In such countries, the laws of the land have been designed to oppress the common citizen, while state officials and other actors affiliated with the government continue to benefit. Hong Kong citizens were recently protesting for similar reasons. In the protests, they demanded sovereignty from the government of mainland China as they wanted to establish a democratic rule. According to them, the philosophies held by the Chinese government did not suit the goals and objectives of the island. Hong Kong residents are, therefore, requesting intervention from the international community, citing China’s oppressive rule.
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The cases discussed show the need for placing limitations on sovereignty. The events taking place in one country can have substantial effects on another, promoting the said country to breach the sovereignty of the other. The threat of war and other forms of armed conflict is one of the leading reasons behind the violation of the sovereignty of other countries. Powerful countries or international organizations, such as the UN, have been given the responsibility of preventing conflict through their might and influence. When dealing with transnational crimes, the country affected by the criminal activity remains within its right when its efforts to fight crime takes them to a foreign land. In most cases, international organized crime thrives because the host countries are unable to contain the criminals. For this reason, countries that are capable of dealing with such organizations step up to the task, especially if they are affected by their activities. Human rights violations also justify the intrusion of a country’s sovereignty. This is because, human rights are more important than the state’s goals and objectives. Therefore, it can be argued that countries should only be allowed to act sovereign when their actions fall within a larger international objective.
- Krasner, Stephen D. “Sharing sovereignty: New institutions for collapsed and failing states.” International security Vol, 29, no .2, 2004, pp. 85-120.
- Naim, Moises. “The five wars of globalization.” Foreign Policy Vol. 134, no .1, 2003, pp. 28-37.
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