The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States was a treaty signed at Montevideo on December 26, 1933, at the Seventh International Conference of American States. At this conference, US President Franklin Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull declared American opposition to armed intervention in inter-American affairs, attempting to reverse the perception of Yankee imperialism, the so-called Good Neighbor Policy. The convention was signed by 19 states, 3 with reservations.
The convention sets out the definition, rights and duties of statehood. Most well-known is article 1, which sets out the four criteria for statehood that have sometimes been recognized as an accurate statement of customary international law:
- The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.
Furthermore, the first sentence of article 3 explicitly states that "The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states." This is known as the declarative theory of statehood.
Some have questioned whether these criteria are sufficient, as they allow less-recognized entities like the Republic of China or even entirely non-recognized entities like the Principality of Sealand to claim full status as states. According to the alternative constitutive theory of statehood, a state exists only insofar as it is recognized by other states.
There have also been attempts to further broaden the convention's definition, although they have gained less support. Founders of non-territorial micronations commonly assert that the requirement in the Montevideo Convention of a defined territory is in some way wrong-headed, for largely unspecified reasons. Some non-territorial entities, notably the Sovereign Order of Malta, are indeed considered subjects of international law, but these do not aspire to statehood.