Can you really start your own country?
Wouldn’t it be nice to draw a border around your house and property, plant a flag with your face on it, and establish yourself as the new King of the Republic of YOU? Believe it or not, it is possible to establish your own micronation. However, it remains ludicrously ambitious to think that the world community will ever recognize your new state. But it is easier than you think to at least form your own country on paper (or in your own mind).
Definition of a country or micronation
There is no one universal world accord or rule on creating a micronation, which actually works in your 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.”
If I’m reading that correctly, that means that your nosey neighbors can’t file a protest and block your attempt at turning your front yard and house into your own country. So anyone is free to declare themselves a new micronation. However, the Montevideo Convention isn't the rule of law or even universal international agreement, so achieving legitimacy is a whole new battle.
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 in the Middle East, 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 your own country is where you’ll establish it. After all, you want some terra firma to call your own, even if it’s just a small plot. Here are a few geographical options for your new micronation:
The easiest way to picture your own nation is on an island somewhere, with its sandy shores dictating the border lines and a built-in aqua barrier from neighboring countries. The only problem is that there really aren't unclaimed islands just hanging around in the world.
Even if you did come across an abandoned island that you find suitable, by 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.
Just about every inch of usable land in the world has been claimed by existing countries with two exceptions:
Antartica doesn’t belong to any country, although it is jointly managed by the most powerful states in the world.
Also, Bir Tawil is an 800 square mile slice of land that sits on the border between Egypt and Sudan, but neither claim. But if you're thinking of packing your bags for Bir Tawil, you should know that 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 your neighbor’s country
With these territorial concerns, you may be looking enviously at your neighbor’s country. 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 that of Comoros, Vanuatu, and the Maldives, it fails miserably in defeat and death.
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 trying to be a little more diplomatic and just purchasing a country? But even for the Bill Gates, Sir. Richard Bransons, and Warren Buffets of the world, it probably still 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. (No report on if they lost their purchase money deposit.)
Build your own floating nation
This is probably the most realistic approach, and the concept of modern, human-made floating cities and communities has undergone some fascinating evolutions.
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!
Look for part two of this blog, where we give you examples of micronations already in existence, the official international rules on statehood, and a checklist with everything you’ll need to form your own country!