National sovereignty

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National sovereignty (abbreviated NatSov) has long been a contentious issue among the members of the NationStates World Assembly, with members disagreeing over the question of whether national sovereignty exists as well as disagreeing over to what extent it should exist, if any, and what valid arguments there might be for maintaining or changing the state of national sovereignty in the NationStates World Assembly. These discussions are complicated by the unique relationship of the World Assembly to the NationStates game engine, which give the arguments unique facets which are not found in real-life discussions of national sovereignty.

Sovereigntism, or the promotion of national sovereignty-friendly policies within the General Assembly, has been a popular WA philosophy for years. Once ridiculed as a separatist fringe of nations who were better off simply resigning from the WA, sovereigntism has gained a level of respectability thanks in part to groups like the National Sovereignty Organization (2005-08), which sought to legitimize the sovereigntist movement.

Does National Sovereignty Exist in the NSWA?

The answer to that question depends largely on our own preconceptions about what constitutes sovereignty and is complicated by the interaction between game mechanics and roleplay. Many people incorporate a variety of these perspectives and/or concepts into their views. Keep in mind that this has been simplified for brevity.

Statistic Control

For some people, national sovereignty is having complete control over their national statistics. For them, national sovereignty is a quality that you have or do not have, and there are no degrees to which national sovereignty exists and/or does not exist. In their case, there is no national sovereignty if you are a member of the World Assembly and are affected by the statistical changes wrought by the NSWA.

Policymaking Through Daily Issues

For others, national sovereignty is the ability of their nation to make its own policy through daily issues. For them, national sovereignty is a quality diminished only by an inability to make policy in a particular area. Even if they are members of the World Assembly, they are still allowed to make their own policy through daily issues and thus they still have national sovereignty.

Roleplay Control

For some players, most of whom feel obligated to abide by the conventions of good roleplay by not godmoding, their ability to control completely their nation's policies through roleplay is what constitutes national sovereignty. Because the text of an NSWA resolution functions in the realm of roleplay and it is considered by the community to be godmoding to ignore that text, and for these players national sovereignty is a quality that you have or do not have, and there are no degrees to which national sovereignty exists and/or does not exist. In their case, there is no national sovereignty if you are a member of the World Assembly and are affected by the roleplay changes wrought by the NSWA.

Policymaking Through Roleplay

For many players who are NSWA members, most of whom feel obligated to abide by the conventions of good roleplay by not godmoding, their ability to set their nation's policies through roleplay is what constitutes national sovereignty. Because the text of an NSWA resolution functions in the realm of roleplay and it is considered by the community to be godmoding to ignore that text, these players have their national sovereignty diminished to some degree when the NSWA passes legislation. For these players, national sovereignty only extends so far as the NSWA has not legislated on an issue.

Common Mistakes

Here are some of the more common mistakes that are made in national sovereignty discussions.


Occasionally the WA forum gets treated to a diatribe on how the RL (real-life) United Nations works. Usually such diatribes are immediately followed by arguments that the NationStates World Assembly should work the same way as the RL United Nations. Sometimes the persons will even cite the RL United Nations Charter, or use other RL United Nations resources to back up their claims. Unfortunately for such persons, NationStates is a role-playing game, and does not recognize RL resources except as aids to debate (whether over appropriate role-play conventions or ethical and legal concerns).

Power of the NationStates World Assembly

Far too often persons will enter the WA forum and argue that the NationStates World Assembly does not have the power to enact the legislation that has been passed. As it happens, the NationStates World Assembly actually does have that power. If you are a member of the World Assembly during the period in which the resolution is coded, then the national statistics for your nation are changed according to the nature of the resolution. This is built into the very structure of the game, and there is nothing that can be done about it. However, if you are not a member of the World Assembly during the time period in which the resolution is coded, your national statistics are not changed. Even so, you are expected to act as if your nation is in compliance with the legislation for the purposes of roleplay. One can roleplay defiance of the legislation, but be prepared to do a proper job of it or be accused of wanking or godmoding (follow the links for explanations on wanking and godmoding), and possibly derided and ignored altogether. One fairly common and widely accepted method of roleplaying defiance of resolutions is to take advantage of the often ambiguous and/or undefined nature of the resolutions and define certain key terms such that the effects of the resolution are nullified or made negligible.

Arguments Related to National Sovereignty

I have been here for some time now, and have noticed that national sovereignty is a topic that is oft-debated and hotly contested here in the World Assembly forum. Many arguments get thrown around and it can often seem like there are as many arguments on the issue as there are people debating it. However, I have identified several common threads in these arguments, and think it would be useful to compile them in one handy guide to national sovereignty discussions. Hopefully, someone will actually read this guide before going on at length about how terrible the World Assembly is for violating their national sovereignty, and thereby save us all some time. There is no one absolutely correct argument that I know of, so keep this in mind in your future discussions on the issue. You may have simply agree to disagree with other posters and leave the issue of national sovereignty alone.

Debates over the appropriate scope of national sovereignty take many forms. Some are related to the IC (In-Character) aspects of NationStates and others are related to the OOC (Out-Of-Character) aspects of the game. Often terms such as domestic and international are used to indicate different types of policy, legislation, or law. Most arguments support a particular degree to which national sovereignty should be upheld or not upheld, but some persons will hold to multiple arguments (or versions thereof) so it can become difficult to pinpoint a person?s position on the issue. There are other arguments than those which are listed below, but I have only included the more commonly used arguments.

Daily Issues Argument

One of the more common OOC arguments for national sovereignty (limited or extensive) is that having the NationStates World Assembly legislate in certain areas is redundant because there are already daily issues that allow the nations to make legislation on that issue. Many proponents of this argument have also said that such redundancy takes the fun out of the game, which is deciding how to run your own nation.

Legalistic Argument

The Legalistic Argument is a fairly common method of dealing with national sovereignty issues. Proponents of this argument hold that there are two types of legislation; domestic and international. The general thrust of this argument is that because "it's the World Assembly, not the National Micromanagement Assembly", the World Assembly is a body that is international in its scope, and international only. Persons taking this position usually believe that unless the NationStates World Assembly is legislating directly on an international issue, it is violating the scope of its legal authority.

International Justification Argument

This is one of the most popular arguments that is used to justify the NationStates World Assembly legislating on what others might consider a domestic issue. Proponents of this argument will generally state that the NationStates World Assembly is well within its rights to legislate on domestic issues if there is an international justification for doing so. For example, outlawing abortion in one nation would probably lead to women immigrating or emigrating (depending on your perspective) to other nations in order to have abortions. Thus many proponents of this argument would say that because the domestic law is extremely likely to have international consequences, it is within the scope of the NationStates World Assembly to set international law that will address this issue.

Fatalistic Argument

A common OOC argument for the sovereignty of the NationStates World Assembly is that due to the nature of game mechanics, it already by its very nature violates national sovereignty. Essentially, persons using this argument often suggest that because of the nature of the NationStates World Assembly, you give up all national sovereignty upon joining the World Assembly, and therefore it is useless to try to assert the sovereignty of your nation if you are a member.

Validity of the National Sovereignty Argument

Frisbeeteria, the author of the Rights and Duties of WA States Resolution, posted an excellent examination of the relationship between national sovereignty the NationStates World Assembly on the old Jolt forums. I am reposting it here with some format changes, as it includes an analysis of national sovereignty as it relates to international law and game structures, rather than the mostly descriptive methods that I have employed. All of the text you read after this point was written by Frisbeeteria.

It has become fashionable once again to discard or belittle arguments of national sovereignty as somehow unworthy of notice. "Yet another member who hasn't read the FAQ" seems to be a common slap in the face of new posters. Let's examine this in a bit more detail.

Does the WA have the power to override National Sovereignty?

Yes. Unquestionably. The FAQ makes that abundantly clear.

The WA is your chance to mold the rest of the world to your vision, by voting for resolutions you like and scuttling the rest. However, it's a double-edged sword, because your nation will also be affected by any resolutions that pass.


Does the WA have the right to override National Sovereignty?

Yes and no. Matters of international importance and consequence are rightfully the province of the WA. Who makes the determination of what is or isn't a matter of international importance? The ambassadors of the WA member nations choose that among themselves.

There is no grand scheme by which the WA can rightfully do anything at all, unless the membership grants the organization that right. It is the duty of WA member nations to send a representative who is capable of presenting his or her own national interests, while at the same time considering the validity and effect of those interests on other members of the international community. These members must consider and decide whether the proposal or resolution in question should qualify as the rightful property of the WA. If so, they should present their case. If not, they should vehemently oppose it. National interest MUST be given weight in any ambassador's decision.

Does the WA have the duty to override National Sovereignty?

In cases of international importance that transcend national boundaries, perhaps. Some would include most Human Rights proposals into this category. Others might consider Environmental or Free Trade as paramount. There is no single criterion that any given nation is required to follow in determining their duty to the WA, and ambassadors should not be chastised for failure to share common values. With more than 37,000 WA member nations, it is absurd to think that every one will agree on any given issue, much less the phrasing and language of its presentation. The value of such duty is a variable which can only be set by the member nation.

Does the WA have the obligation to override National Sovereignty?

Absolutely not. The WA can always decide that an issue is not worthy of its consideration, or rightfully belongs to the member nations. The WA also has the ability to change its mind at a later date, as member nations come and go. Consequently, all previous resolutions may now be repealed, assuming some member can create a compelling case to do so.

On what legal basis can the WA override National Sovereignty?

"Rights and Duties of WA States" provides the legal precedent for sovereignty in Articles 1-3, while at the same time recognizing the legitimate claims of the WA in Articles 2, 3 and 11. In many ways, this is a restatement of the core [OOC] rules of the game, while providing a critical [IC] justification for doing so.

In passing this resolution, the WA has explicitly recognized the concept of National Sovereignty. Thus, under international law, national sovereignty arguments are legal and permissible as legitimate in any argument. As previously stated, those arguments do not in and of themselves provide justification for the passage of a resolution or a repeal, as the WA always retains the power to decide for itself what it worthy of consideration.

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