In my July 2017 digital postcard, I explore the topic of nation building. Together, we propose to form the United Republic of Boogie and go through the different decisions we'd have to make as a great way to educate ourselves - and have more than a little fun.
The amazing thing we found is that it's fairly easy to form your own country - on paper (or in your own mind). However, it's damn hard to get the international community to recognize it, and therein lies the problem.
There is no one universal world accord or rule on creating a micronation, which actually works in our favor. But there is a framework for claiming statehood, which is outlined in the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, signed in 1933 by the United States and other Latin American countries.
Article 1 of that Convention argues that “the state as a person of international law” needs to meet the following qualifications:
Have a permanent population
Define a territory
Have a government
The ability to enter into relations with the other countries
The next ten Articles of the Montevideo Convention detail that the “existence of a state is independent of recognition by other states, and is free to act on its own behalf—and that no state is free to intervene in the affairs of another.”
So anyone is free to declare themselves a new micronation - great news for the United Republic of Boogie!
However, the Montevideo Convention isn't the rule of law or even universal international agreement, so achieving legitimacy is a whole new battle.
Getting the international community to recognize us is the hard part
I don’t know if it helps or hurts our efforts to establish the United Republic of Boogie, but there are no set rules for nation building that every country observes. Instead, each government has its own standards and process to determine if they will recognize another nation as legitimate.
In the United States, the decision to recognize a nation is made by the President alone. (Scary!)
But eventually, we’d want ‘Boogie to join the United Nations. That means that none of the five UN power members, US, UK, China, Russia, and France, veto our membership. (P.S. How the hell did France sneak into that party?)
Nations that currently don’t enjoy universal recognition
Already, the waters are muddied when it comes to the number of legit and universally recognized countries in the world. In fact, there isn’t even one definitive answer to the question “How many countries are there in the world?” The most complete answer is that there are 196 countries, but that’s where it gets complex.
For instance, Taiwan – the island nation in Asia – claims sovereignty, but China also claims that Taiwan is part of their country. Most of the world do recognize Taiwan as its own country, but some do not.
There is also the case of Palestine, with only 70.5% (136 out of 193) United Nations member states recognizing it as a country. Conversely, Israel is not recognized by Palestine, nor Syria.
The list of states with “limited recognition” narrows to the more obscure:
Armenia is a country…except that it’s not recognized by Pakistan, and Cyprus isn’t recognized by Turkey), etc. North Korea is not recognized by two United Nations members, Japan and South Korea. Abkhazia broke from Russia in1999 and formed its own country, although it’s still not fully acknowledged by UN member states. And a desolate slice of sand in the Western Sahara is claimed by Morrocco, but also formed its own micronation, called the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). It goes on and on.
But where will it be?
The biggest question that arises in the quest for our own country is the where. Attaching our new theoretical nation to terra firma, or actual an actual land with borders, is the #1 way to make it legitimate. After all, we don't want to be the mobile home park of nations!
So here are a few options for us:
The most appealing spot for the United Republic of Boogie is on a beautiful tropical island somewhere. The only problem is that there really aren't unclaimed islands just hanging around in the world.
Even if we did come across an abandoned island, according to international marine law, it needs to be outside another country's territorial waters (usually 12 miles offshore) and 200 miles outside of any exclusive economic zone.
(That’s the snag the Principality of New Utopia ran into when they set up shop on a small island in the Caribbean, only to find out that they were within the Exclusive Economic Zones of both Honduras and the Cayman Islands.)
Plant your flag in unwanted territory
Just about every inch of usable land in the world has been claimed by existing countries with two exceptions:
Antarctica doesn’t belong to any country, although it is jointly managed by the most powerful states in the world. Brrrrr.
Our only other options is Bir Tawil, an 800 square mile slice of land that sits on the border between Egypt and Sudan, but neither claim.
But before we start packing our bags for Bir Tawil, it's already been "claimed" by an American farmer from Virginia named Jeremiah Heaton, who set up the micronation of North Sudan just so his daughter, Emily, can be a real-life princess.
Conquer a neighboring country
In light of these real estate complications, it might look better and better to invade someplace like Hawaii or Aruba or something and claim it as our own. In fact, history is filled with instances of countries that were established after another was invaded or conquered. Sometimes it works, but in other cases, like when armies attempted to invade the countries of Comoros, Vanuatu, and the Maldives, it fails in defeat.
In the 1850s, American William Walker raised a small army of private mercenaries and invaded parts of Latin America with the intention of forming his own county or colonies. He actually overthrew the presidency of Nicaragua in 1856 and ruled for one whole year. Unfortunately for Walker, his new enemies ousted him from office in 1857, sending him on the run until he was executed in Honduras in 1860.
Buy an existing country
How about just pool our resources and try to purchase a country? But even for the Bill Gates, Sir. Richard Bransons, and Warren Buffets of the world, it probably isn't financially feasible. That's what a group of libertarians found out when they tried to buy Toruga from impoverished Haiti, but were rejected and sent packing.
Build our own floating nation
This is probably the most realistic approach for the United Republic of Boogie. The concept of human-made, floating, self-sufficient cities and communities have undergone fascinating innovations recently. Going forward, we probably won't be the only new Water World-type nation floating around on the seas.
But wealthy libertarian Michael Oliver tried a different approach to building his own island nation when he dumped countless tons of sand into the Minerva Reefs south of Fiji. It worked, too, as the new landmass held up and he was able to proclaim sovereignty as the new Republic of Minerva. Unfortunately, his success drew attention and he was quickly invaded by Tonga and annexed into that country!