The problems of micro-states in international law


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




The problems arising from the emergence of micro-States have recently received a great deal of attention in the international community. These problems can be seen to have two major aspects. One is the question of the future statehood of micro-States in the international community, the other is the potential problems resulting from their participation in international affairs. The object of this paper is to point out the visible problems involved in the process of the participation of micro-States in international affairs in order that possible solutions can be proposed. In investigating the historical background of these problems, we are aware that the continuing efforts of the United Nations on decolonization are the main stimuli to the birth of micro-States. Historically, the League of Nations has faced the same problem as the United Nations over the question of the admission of small States. Although no definite criteria had been set out by the League of Nations for determining the admission of small States, it did prevent in due course the admissions of certain small States. The increasing number of micro-States poses serious problems to the United Nations. On the one hand, the question is whether the micro-States, most of which are hardly able to meet the admission requirements of the Charter, should be eligible for membership in the United Nations. In this respect, it has been suggested that a distinction should be made between "the right to Independence and the question of full membership in the United Nations." On the other hand, the imbalance of the voting power and real power resulting from the rule of "one-State one-vote" will become more profound unless some solutions to the question of admission of micro-States in the United Nations can be worked out. Finally, we reach the conclusions that, first of all, the Security Council and the General Assembly should set out criteria guiding the admission of new Members; secondly, certain special arrangements for the micro-States are needed so that micro-States can fully benefit from these arrangements without straining their resources and potential through assuming the full burdens of United Nations membership which they are not in a position to assume. As to the future statehood of the small territories, there is a general awareness that total "independence" may not be desirable for all of them. On this point, several solutions shall be recommended in the last Chapter of this paper.


States, Small.

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