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The Concept of Sovereign Equality of States in International Law
GIMPA Law Review (2016)
  • Alex Ansong
The notion that the existence of a State must not be based on, inter alia, the military or economic power it wields to assure its existence and prevent interference from other states, has evolved over the centuries and has become a foundational provision in the United Nations Charter. States are deemed equal just by their status as states under international law. Sovereign equality is therefore juridical in nature in that, all states are equal under international law in spite of asymmetries of inequality in areas like military power, geographical and population size, levels of industrialisation and economic development. Transposing this principle into actual practice, especially in decision-making systems in international organisations presents problems. If all states are equal, should it also mean equality of influence in law creation in international organisations? With treaties being one of the main sources of international law, if states do not have equal influence in treaty based international organisations this would mean that the will of the mighty would prevail over the weak. Juridical equality is therefore empty if it cannot translate into effective equality, at least at the level of law creation in international organisations. The above stated issues are considered in detail in this article. There are four main sections in this article. The first section takes a brief look at the definition of sovereign equality especially within the United Nations (UN) system and its concomitant application in international law. The second and third sections discuss the concepts of state sovereignty and equality of states in international law and present brief historical accounts of the development of these two concepts. The fourth section and the conclusion present an overview of the implications of the concept of sovereign equality of states in the decision-making systems of state constructed international organisations.
  • Sovereign equality of states,
  • sovereignty
Publication Date
January, 2016
Citation Information
Alex Ansong, ‘The Concept of Sovereign Equality of States in International Law’ GIMPA Law Review (2016) 2:1, pp.14-36