• Legis Scriptor

Theories of Recognition

Authored By- Divya Surana

Keywords- #theoris_of_recognition #International_Law #State #de_facto #de_jure #United_Nations #UNGA #Constitutive_Theory #Declaratory_Theory


This topic is a part of International Law. Recognition comes where a state is compared with any other state. Recognition of a state means that the existence of a state is recognized. Recognition is an act through which one country recognizes another country.


United Nations is the most important organization in the world, which monitors the different countries on this planet. Many countries are a member of this organization. A state cannot survive independently without exchanging the economic benefits with other countries. For, trading internationally, one needs to be a member of the United Nations, and to become a member of the United Nations one must have the status of a recognized state. Here, arises the need for ‘recognition for a state’. In the past, many states integrated with other states and some disintegrated themselves to attain statehood. The recognition can be in both the ways either implied or expressed.

Essentials of Recognition

· Definite Territory: there must be a definite boundary of a state to get recognized internationally. This simply means that how much area does a state occupies on the map. Examples can be India, China, Australia, etc.

· Population: The state is a community of persons living together in a definite territory. For Example, people, living in India is known as Indians.

· Government: it is important because this shows how the people of that country are ruled. Whether that particular state is independent or not. To know the sovereignty of that state.

Theories of Recognition

There are two theories of recognition in International Law i.e.

· Constitutive Theory: According to a well known German jurist Openheim-a state is, and becomes, international person, through, recognition only and exclusively. This theory was developed in the 19th century. This theory defines a state as a person of International Law when it is recognized by other states. In simple words, we can say that if any state or country exists, its existence is meaningless unless it is recognized by other states.

· Declaratory Theory: This theory came into existence in the 20th century. According to the declaratory theory of recognition, the recognition of a state, or country is done by other state does not matter. If a state is independent, and it is in itself self-sufficient, which means that it is fulfilling the requirements of statehood then it can be termed as a recognized state. If a state has the three basic requirements i.e. Territory, Population, and Government then, according to this theory, it is a state.

We can say, that both the theories are contradicting each other, the first one says that in International Law, the recognition from other states, or countries is foremost. The other one says that if the state is independent, and self-sufficient then this is enough, there is no such clause for being recognized by other states.

Methods of Recognition

Again there are two methods of recognition of a state or country under International Law these are:

· De Facto Recognition: this recognition by the ‘fact’. When a state fulfills the essential requirements of being a state, these are territory, population, and government. Then, that particular state gets the de facto recognition. De Facto recognition can be in simple language, to be understood as the indirect recognition of a state by the fact that it is independent and self-sufficient but legal recognition is not given to that particular state. According to, Judge Phillips C Jessup, “De facto recognition is a term which has been used without precision when properly used to mean the recognition of the de facto character of a government; it is objectionable and indeed could be identical with the practice suggested of extended recognition without resuming diplomatic relations.” De Facto recognition can be taken away from the states or countries, which does not fulfill the conditions.

· De Jure Recognition: It means to give legal recognition to any state or country. This recognition comes after the status of de facto recognition is granted. When the United Nations believe that the things in a state or country have become more confirmed, and stable, then eventually they get de jure recognition. Once a state gets de jure recognition then this is not possible to take away that status, which is why de jure is granted after de facto. According to Phillips Marshall Brown, “De jure recognition is final and once given cannot be withdrawn, said intention should be declared expressly and the willingness is expressed to establish political relations.”

Difference between de facto and de jure recognition:

· De Facto recognition can be taken back, and De Jure recognition cannot be taken back once granted.

· De Facto recognition can be granted by a state to another state but, De Jure recognition cannot be granted by one state to another.

· De Facto always comes before De Jure, directly De Jure cannot be granted. De Jure is never granted initially.

· Simply, having de facto recognition does not make a state member of the United Nations, De Jure is very much necessary.


Having read about the theories, if we have a practical look, then it is very much necessary for a state to interact with each other for many reasons such as exchange services, for the fund, exchange of economic benefits, tourism, medical benefits, etc. A state cannot survive without interacting with other states in the long run. In International Law, states work by mutually coordinating with each other for their benefit.