State building

17th March 2018

State building is the activity of enhancing the capacity, institutions and legitimacy of a state driven by its society. It involves its services for its people and political groups who constructively engage with the state.

In 2011, a group of filmmakers went to South Sudan to film for the New York Times about those on the frontline of building the new state. The South Sudan government together with the United Nations had to confront and overcome many challenges such as building roads, infrastructure, public services, a justice system, overcoming ethnic violence and getting rid of its weapon stockpiles. Today, seven years on, the situation has not improved.

A brief look at any newspaper reveals 250,000 children are facing starvation, the war is depriving children of education, the war has recruited child soldiers, a third of its population has been displaced, and there is still ethnic violence, with the main conflict arising out of the Dinka ethnicity, to which the South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit belongs, and the Nuer ethnicity, to which the former deputy President Riek Machar belongs. The British army are now in South Sudan as part of their contribution to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and have agreed to be there until April 2020.

If right now I was to build a state, here are the elements I would strive for:

Legislation to make laws. Law is important for society as it serves the norm of conduct for citizens. Without law it would be survival of the fittest, a free for all, everyone for themselves. Law allows us to know what is our rights and duties. Law is meant to protect people and property.

An independent judicial system to interpret laws. Crucially, it must be independent. Judges must be free to exercise their judicial powers without interference. Interference from litigants, the state, the media, powerful individuals or entities. Judges often decide matters between citizen and the state, and citizens and entities, so it is vitally important for an independent judicial system.

Executive agencies to administer the laws which control the economy, education, trade, diplomacy et al. Its purpose is to carry out the functions of the government.

Police and military forces. The police should use the minimum use of force, patrol on foot, have strong local ties and encourage community consultation. The police should enforce the law. The military should provide security of the state.

National identity. This includes a name, a national flag, a national anthem, a capital city, a defined territory, a passport, a population. When state building, state identity should not be because of a shared ethnicity or cultural history, but because of a shared set of ideals.

The recognition from other states. There are two well-known theories here. Declaratory recognition as implemented by the Montevideo Convention of 1933: A state will recognise another if it has a government, a defined territory, a permanent population and the capacity to enter into relation with other states. In the constitutive theory, a state is recognised by its recognition by other states. Recognition is important for, inter alia: security, diplomatic relations, treaties, trade. In our state building challenge however, in order for us to get recognition from other states, it is preferable to adhere to the Guidelines on the Recognition of New States in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union adopted by the Council of the European Community on 16th December 1991. This treaty suggests the Montevideo criteria is no longer sufficient. The treaty states that those in the process of recognition must have (a) respect for human rights (b) guarantees for minorities (c) respect for the inviolability of frontiers (d) acceptance of commitments to regional security and stability (e) to settle by agreement all questions concerning state succession.

Infrastructure: Our state needs roads, airports, bridges, buildings, electricity, water supply, oil et al.

Services: Our state needs hospitals, restaurants, supermarkets, petrol stations, police stations, fire brigades, shops et al.

Laws for the population:

  • Freedom. Freedom will be at the core of the state. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. Freedom of assembly. Freedom of association. Freedom of where to live. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

There will be however, certain limitations in place in regards to freedom of speech, which are:

  • Threatening or abusive behaviour that causes harassment, alarm, distress, or a breach of the peace.
  • Incitement to violence, incitement to racial hatred, incitement to religious hatred, incitement to terrorism.
  • Sedition, obscenity, corruption of public morals, outraging public decency, defamation.


  • Human rights. Individuals have a right to life. Capital punishment shall be prohibited in this state. This right shall be protected, unless whereby the deprivation of which has come about by:
    • Self-defence of unlawful violence.
    • If the use of force inflicted deprives the right of life as a result of an individual attempting to escape lawful arrest or detention.
    • A woman choosing to have an abortion. Abortion does not contravene the right of life in this state.

This state shall adhere to the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. Which includes:

  • The right to leave any country, including one's own, and to return to one's country;
  • The right to nationality;
  • The right to marriage and choice of spouse;
  • The right to own property alone as well as in association with others;
  • The right to inherit;
  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression (with the exceptions mentioned above);
  • The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
  • Economic, social and cultural rights, in particular:
    • The rights to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favourable remuneration;
    • The right to form and join trade unions;
    • The right to housing;
    • The right to public health, medical care, social security and social services;
    • The right to education and training;
    • The right to equal participation in cultural activities;
  • The right of access to any place or service intended for use by the general public, such as transport hotels, restaurants, cafes, theatres and parks.


  • Equality. This state shall have universal respect and the observance of human rights and fundamental freedom for all, irrespective of: occupation, sex, race, economic condition, skin colour, language, religion, political belief. This state shall have equal protection of the law against any discrimination or incitement to discrimination of the aforementioned factors.


  • Democracy. This state shall be democratic – the people select their government. Political power begins with the people, and exercised through choices the people make. Major official political posts shall be decided through elections, which are on a periodic basis.