Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Ryan Griffiths


de facto states, state capacity, unrecognized states

Subject Categories

Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


What explains de facto states that do not pursue statehood? Why do we see examples of unrecognized states pushing for reintegration after a period of time? Why do some de facto states seem content with the status quo? Previous examination of de facto state strategies highlighted the role that the international system plays in granting independence. For the most part, de facto states, by default secessionist movements who have sundered from the parent state, are unlikely to be granted independence by the very system which holds a taboo against secession. The exceptions to this came after a long time of sustained campaigning, in addition to gross human rights violations. Current explanations for de facto states still in limbo hedge on other states playing the most important role. These explanations are incomplete. For de facto states that have signaled their desire for reintegration or the states, it is useful to examine not only internal dynamics within the unrecognized state, but also the de facto state – parent state dynamic. In this dissertation, I analyze the role that relative state capacity plays in shaping preferences for de facto states, whether that be for reintegration, status quo, or independence. My dissertation contributes to the burgeoning literature on de facto statehood in a variety of ways. First, I contribute by challenging the idea that unrecognized states automatically prefer independence. My case studies point to a variety of preferences that exist along the spectrum of de facto states. Northern Cyprus shows an example of an established de facto state that pushed for reintegration with the very parent state that assured it did not have a role in the international system. The case of Taiwan displays an example of an economic powerhouse that treads the line of status quo acceptance, and the role that their state capacity relative to the parent state plays in that. Finally, Somaliland is a case of a de facto state preferring independence, despite having no patron state and an uphill climb to establish adequate state building. Second, I present a theoretical framework that incorporates state capacity of the de facto state and the parent state. Specifically, I lay out that the balance of state capacity between both parties shapes preferences for either reintegration, status quo, or independence. Furthermore, state capacity is dissected down into three constituent parts: military capacity, economic capacity, and administrative capacity. I directly compare the military, economic, and administrative capacity of each de facto-parent state dyad, using numerous indicators. By systematically comparing the state capacity of de facto states and parent states, my dissertation offers an additional and necessary examination into de facto states and their outlook towards their sovereignty.


Open Access