Territory is crucial in determining the sovereignty of a State. As has been noted in international legal doctrine, ‘a State without a territory is not possible’. This does not mean territoriality is the single criterion of personality in international law; however Statehood without a reasonably defined geographical base is inconceivable. The theory of Territory examines the concept of territorial acquisition such as conquest, cession, secession and terra nullius. It defines the role of Territory in the sovereignty of a particular State. Discussion also focuses on territorial exclusivity and territorial sovereignty of a State wherein the boundaries, the jurisdiction and the right to self-determination of the State are examined. Further discussion also focuses on other existing issues regarding the extent of Territory.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on Territory. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's subject heading (keyword) Territory is instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

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Sources of international law



A. Permanent Court of International Justice

  • Status of Eastern Carelia (Advisory Opinion of 23 July 1923)

Request for Advisory OpinionAdvisory Opinion of 23 July 1923 (including the text of the joint declaration by Judge Weiss, Judge Nyholm, Judge de Bustamante and Judge Altamira)4th Public Sitting11th Public SittingOther Documents (vol. II); PPL keyword: Status of Eastern Carelia

  • Jaworzina (Polish-Czechoslovakian Frontier; Advisory Opinion of 6 December 1923)

Advisory Opinion of 6 December 1923Official CitationContentsPublic SittingsSpeeches Made and Documents Read before the CourtOther DocumentsIndex; PPL keyword: Jaworzina

  • Monastery of Saint-Naoum (Albanian Frontier; Advisory Opinion of 4 September 1924)

Advisory Opinion of 4 September 1924Official CitationContentsPublic SittingsSpeeches Made and Documents Read before the CourtOther DocumentsCorrespondenceIndex; PPL keyword: Monastery of Saint-Naoum

                                                                                                                                         → More PCIJ case-law, click here.

B. International Court of Justice

  • Minquiers and Ecrehos (France/United Kingdom; Judgement of 17 November 1953)

Judgment of 17 November 1953; ICJ documents; PPL keyword: Minquiers and Ecrehos (France/United Kingdom)

  • Sovereignty over Certain Frontier Land (Belgium/Netherlands; Judgment of 20 June 1959)

Judgment of 20 June 1959; ICJ documents; PPL keyword: Sovereignty over Certain Frontier Land (Belgium/Netherlands)

  • Arbitral Award Made by the King of Spain on 23 December 1906 (Honduras v. Nicaragua; Judgment of 18 November 1960)

Judgment of 18 November 1960; ICJ documents; PPL keyword: Arbitral Award Made by the King of Spain on 23 December 1906 (Honduras v. Nicaragua)

                                                                                                                                         → More ICJ case-law, click here.

C. International Arbitral Tribunals

  • Arbitral Award between Portugal and the United Kingdom, regarding the Dispute about the Sovereignty over the Island of Bulama, and over a part of the Mainland opposite to it.

Decision of 21 April 1870

  • Award in regard to the Validity of the Treaty of Limits between Costa Rica and Nicaragua of 15 July 1858

Decisions of 22 March 1888, 30 September 1897, 20 December 1897, 22 March 1898, 26 July 1899

  • The Chamizal Case (Mexico, United States), 15 June 1911

Award of 15 June 1911

         → More case-law to be found in Reports of International Arbitral Awards and International Law Reports.

UN Declarations and Resolutions

The resolutions and decisions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council may provide valuable information on territorial questions. Although they cannot themselves constitute international law or serve as conclusive evidence of a rule of customary law, such resolutions do have value in providing evidence of existing or emerging law. This point of view has been acknowledged by the International Law Commission.

As every Member State has been recognized and has a vote in the UN General Assembly, finding General Assembly resolutions that passed unanimously or near-unanimously may serve as an excellent starting point in the legal research process. Pay attention to the language of the resolution. Those with firm obligations versus those that are merely aspirational or advisory in nature are more likely to be considered valuable as evidence of customary international law.

 Official Document System Search. ODS is the UN's Official Document System. You can search for UN declarations, resolutions and other documents by keywords, then narrow your search.

 Start Your Research: (7) Resolutions and Decisions of International Organizations.

Reference works

Selected books and articles

Periodicals, serial publications

Atlases, Geography, Encyclopedias