Introduction: A Conceptual Framework for Engagement with de facto States
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Secessionist de facto states, by their very nature, sit outside of the international system. Having unilaterally declared independence from their parent state, they are invariably prevented from joining the United Nations, and thus taking their place as members of the community of universally recognised countries. While the reasons for such punitive approaches have a logic according to prevailing political and legal approaches to secession, it is also recognised that isolation can have harmful effects. Ostracising de facto can not only hinder efforts to resolve the dispute by reducing their willingness to engage in what they see as an asymmetrical settlement process, it can also force them into a closer relationship with a patron state. For this reason, there has been growing interest in academic and policy circles around the concept of engagement without recognition. This is a mechanism that provides for varying degrees of interaction with de facto states while maintaining the position that they are not regarded as independent sovereign actors in the international system. As is shown, while the concept has its flaws, it nevertheless opens up new opportunities for conflict management.