Somaliland ‐ From Non-­being to Special Arrangement: An examination of the International Politics of Recognition

Sofia Deria

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis thematises one of the most constitutive and contentious issues social scientists deal with: the question on how political order is constituted and through what processes this order is attributed meaning and recognition. Sovereignty’s presumed precedence as the fundamental rule or structure of authority in the international society is challenged in the case of Somaliland, where one state’s sovereignty (Somalia) is at stake if another’s (Somaliland) is recognised. Through an analysis of how recognition of statehood is attained in the case of Somaliland, which received international endorsement of its claim to autonomy in 2013, the thesis shows that recognition of state sovereignty as a distinct political order rests on historically contingent political processes of opinion formations. This means that the current political order rests on a paradox, that no natural principles exist behind the granting of sovereignty, which further means that sovereignty is inherently coupled to a constraint, namely that self-determination is not an ultimate principle. The thesis's research question, How has the international community managed dilemmas in regards to Somaliland’s claim of recognition as a sovereign state?, investigates how this paradox is handled. The study shows how the international community applied various storylines in the discursive struggles that gradually constituted and reconstituted what Somaliland’s identity was about and how it fitted in the discursive production of the current international system. It was on the foundation of several previous articulations and selections, which had depicted Somaliland as a responsible agent, that the international community came to constitute Somaliland as a self-governing part of the federal Somalia in 2013. By showing how Somaliland is assured and given content through the practise of recognition, the analysis displays the political and constitutional nature of recognition. In this way, the international community’s management opens the conditions for recognition up for investigation, which uncovers the current conditions for authority in the international system. The analysis shows that the relation between state and society is particularly central for the way Somaliland’s authority is constituted. In this sense, the thesis’s contribution goes beyond a concrete case of recognition of statehood, as we are also offered an opportunity to study the current qualifications of becoming a state in the international system.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages82