Exploring the boundaries of international law
Exploring the boundaries of international law

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Exploring the boundaries of international law

3 Sovereignty

States are the main actors in the international system. The sovereignty of the state is pivotal in the international system; it provides the state with extensive power and authority. Traditionally, sovereignty encompasses:

  • Sovereign equality – states are regarded as equal in international law regardless of their size, population or wealth.
  • Jurisdiction – states have authority to create laws and enforce them.
  • Power – to freely use and dispose of the territory under the state’s jurisdiction and to perform activities deemed necessary to the population.
  • Duty of non-intervention – no other state should intrude into the state’s territory – ius excludendi alios (the right to exclude others).
  • Sovereign immunity – the right of immunity from the jurisdiction of foreign courts for acts performed by the state in its sovereign capacity.
  • Diplomatic immunity – the right of state representatives acting in their official capacity to immunity from the legal system of the state in which they are operating.
  • Rights – to respect for life and property of the state’s nationals and state officials abroad.

Despite being central to the operation of the international system the concept of sovereignty defies precise definition and has been the subject of wide-ranging criticism. 


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371