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Geopolitical Sark Index

This is an index of the resources we have found - or been sent - while researching the identity of Sark from a geopolitical perspective. Some history and random facts of interest may have crept in as well!

Do please send us any more or other comments via the Contact Us page.

Sark's Official Flag

Flown to represent Sark at official occasions by the UK and wherever Sark is represented. The Sark flag is flown at official UK State events and to mark Sark’s “Fief Day”. It is accorded equal status to those of the other governments of Crown Dependencies and BOTs. International flag authorities also confirm.

1951 - 1953 International Court of Justice

In 1951, the International Court of Justice was asked by the UK and France to determine which country had the title to the Minquiers and Ecrehos. The evidence submitted treated Sark as separate from and equal to the dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man. The UK's Memorial is here. The evidence in this case contains references to Sark dating back to the 12th century in international and legal documents. It covers a great deal of history back to Norman times. The ICJ accepted the evidence in its determination thus confirming Sark's status in international law.

United Nations

Sark is on the UN M49 list and in the UNTERM database.

UK Government and Constitution

Sark is recognised by all levels of HMG including MoJ, FCO and DCMS.

States of Guernsey

The other government in the Bailiwick – The States of Guernsey – and their Law Officers recognise Sark, have confirmed it is separate and doesn’t come under their jurisdiction and legislature.

The EU

The EU acknowledges Sark’s individual status alongside other dependent territories within the negotiations over Brexit.

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights decision of 1 Mar 2016 examined Sark’s constitutional position in exhaustive depth from 1202 to reach their determination and observes that it is “unquestionably unique in Europe”.

Fishing Rights: Sark & French Navy

A dispute over fishing rights in the “Sark Box” resulted in the involvement of the French navy and British fishing inspectorate in 1996.

Relationship with the English Crown

Sark’s relationship with the English Crown dates back to 1066 when William, Duke of Normandy invaded England. The Crown holds Sark as Duke of Normandy. Sark is not, and never has been, part of England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom or the European Union. This is a unique geopolitical status.

Sark - Established by Letters Patent

The current constitutional status of Sark dates back to the granting of Letters Patent by Queen Elizabeth in 1565. This is an international legal precedent creating the jurisdiction and legislature of Sark some 382 years before ISO.

Letters Patent Governments

Other governments established by Letters Patent are a small but exclusive group: New Zealand, the Falkland Islands and some Australian States. The rare legal basis of establishment makes this of interest.

International Recognition of Sark's Court

The World Bank. ICSID is one of the 5 organizations of the World Bank (itself an associate member of ISO 3166/MA). It recognises the Court of the Seneschal of Sark as a competent (and separate) Court in accordance with Article 54(2) of the Convention.

Sark controls its own airspace

Sark is in control of its own airspace as confirmed by ICAO member, DCA.

Professor David Lowenthal, Emeritus Professor, UCL

The late Professor David Lowenthal, Emeritus Professor of Geography and Honorary Research Fellow of UCL published on Sark in academic journals (including the journals both of the Royal Geographical Society and the American geographical Society. He also advised Sark https://www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/news-events/news/news-archive/2013/january-2013/david-lowenthal-advises-sark and submitted an expert opinion in support of Sark’s status.

Professor Godfrey Baldacchino, ISISA, UNESCO et al

Professor Godfrey Baldacchino, President of Small Islands Studies Association, Editor of journals, UNESCO co-Chair in Island Studies at University of Prince Edward Island, Pro-rector at University of Malta has given an expert opinion.

Dr Caroline Morris, Centre for Small States, QMUL

Dr Caroline Morris, legal academic at Queen Mary University of London - QMUL, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Centre of Constitutional and Political Studies King’s College London, Founder and Director of the Centre for Small States at QMUL prepared a detailed legal analysis of Sark’s Constitutional Status.

Professor Henry Johnson, University of Otago, NZ

Professor Henry Johnson, University of Otago, New Zealand has published on Sark in Shima, The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures and has given an expert opinion.

Institute of Island Studies

The Institute of Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island maintains an Island Jurisdiction Database. The entry on the Isle of Sark summarises the political history and status, relationship with the Crown and the “special relationship” with the EU in Protocol 3 of the Treaty of Accession.

Global Islands Network

The Global Islands Network was established following a UN Global Conference (on island states) and work with the EU and other international bodies such as ISISA. Its database lists Sark.

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura is a global community of explorers with the aim “We are looking for the most unusual, extraordinary, strange, secret, surprising, or otherwise amazing locales on the planet.”. Sark is listed as the world’s first Dark Sky Island and for the world’s smallest prison. The entries reference Sark’s geography and political history including an armed “invasion”.

International Dark-Sky Association

The International Dark-Sky Association is the recognized authority on light pollution and is the leading organization combating light pollution worldwide. Sark was the first island in the world to be awarded “Dark Sky” status. https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/communities/sark/

Shima Journal

Shima is a SCOPUS registered peer-refereed international academic journal. A number of articles on Sark have been published by academics.

    1. Sark and Brecqhou: Sark Politics and Power An article which “shows that Sark exists in several ways within different island groupings and political relationships, and argues that closer analysis of this island context contributes both a case study of interisland relations to Island Studies, and more broadly to re-thinking the political geography of islands in the context of spatial and power relationships. ”
    2. A response to that article confirms that the status of Sark is of interest to international legal bodies.
    3. Peter Goodall, in an article on literary history refers both to Victor Hugo’s and Mervyn Peake’s novels on Sark as well as other works and includes a reference that:  “…it now seems likely that the Romans meant the nearby island of Sark by the name.”

Canadian Journal of Linguistics

The Canadian Journal of Linguistics has published an article on the Norman French language of Jersey and Sark – establishing both that Sark is of particular interest and also that its language is not associated with Guernsey.

Mining Rights and Legal Ownership

This history of Sark’s silver mines refers to the legal basis of mineral and mining rights on the island through rights granted by the Crown and the legal basis on which the current Seigneur’s family came into possession of the Fief.

Geopolitical interest

The above list of references to Sark are far from exhaustive and clearly show the interest in Sark from a range of international bodies, courts, governments, resources and experts. It includes areas such as international affairs, culture, air and sea boundaries, political units, geographical location, natural resources and how these are understood – both on Sark and in the wider world.

We agree with them! According to experts across the world, Sark is an area of particular geopolitical interest. And a very beautiful one.



Why Geopolitical?

The term geopolitics refers to the "geographical settings and their relationship to political power .... spatial frameworks embracing political power units such as hemispheres, oceans, land and maritime boundaries, natural resources and culture."  (B Chapman, Geopolitics (Praeger Publishing, Santa Barbara, CA, 2011).

Further reading thanks to Dr Morris of the Centre for Small States, QMUL, London.

Here are a few links about Sark from a geopolitical, international and legal perspective. Many have helped us compile this list and we have tried to give due acknowledgements. If we've missed you, please contact us via the Contact Us page and we will put this right.

A version of this document is available as a downloadable and printable pdf.