Three Reconstructions of ‘Effectiveness’: Some Implications for State Continuity and Sea-level Rise

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Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are uniquely threatened by rising sea-levels. The retreat of their coastlines not only places them in danger of losing maritime territory but the concurrent possibility of their landmasses becoming either uninhabitable or completely submerged also threatens their very existence. According to one understanding of the law that governs the continuity and extinction of states, political communities that permanently lose ‘effectiveness’ – typically understood as sufficient governmental control of a relatively determinate territory with a permanent population – must lose their statehood as well. In this paper, I provide three reconstructions of effectiveness, each of which rests upon a different normative rationale. My contention is that, regardless of which reconstruction one adopts, the continuity of submerged SIDS is eminently supportable, notwithstanding the arguments frequently made in favour of their formal extinction.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbergqae003
Number of pages35
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Early online date21 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2024


  • statehood
  • state continuity
  • Small Island Developing States
  • sea-level rise
  • public international law

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