After 30 years of strife, bloodshed and despair, the war between the member states of the Holy Roman Empire came to an end in 1648 when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed. The signed treaty guaranteed that all states had the right to choose their own religion and was no longer forced to accept that which the Vatican laid down. This idea of ultimate authority within a defined territory was the beginnings of the concept of Sovereignty.
Today, sovereignty is considered the supreme authority within a clear set of borders and is viewed as the defining attribute of statehood. Internal Sovereignty (the license to exercise ultimate decision-making within a given territory) and External Sovereignty (the notion that all states are equal in the international arena) are the two components of the general concept. The documentary, “Americas: Get Up, Stand Up: Problems of Sovereignty,” explores the reality that American nation-states encounter when trying to assert their sovereignty.
Jamaica—who gained independence in 1962—was used as an example to show a newly formed nation’s path in assuring her sovereignty. The documentary highlighted the unfair bauxite royalty agreement the new nation had inherited and its attempt to correct it. Then Prime Minister, Michael Manley, emerged from the negotiations with the bauxite companies victorious. This was one instant in which Jamaica certified her right to be an equal on the international stage. Manley’s goal of creating a self-dependent Socialist state was also another means of attempting to guarantee sovereignty. However, this did more to destroy the cause than help it, as fearing a Socialist government, many foreign investors pulled out of the country. Coupled with the world oil crisis of the 1970s, Jamaica’s economy plummeted and entered into a recession.
Edward Seaga, the leader of Jamaica’s opposition party, used the disastrous economic conditions of the Manley era to win the 1980 election. Seaga kept his promise of having foreign investor return to the island in hopes that this would boost the economy. Despite this, the profits that these companies and investors brought with them were unequally distributed. With a significant portion remaining in the upper crust of the society, the poor and average Jamaican’s economic situation remained unchanged. Realising that the policies of the Seaga lead government did not benefit the majority, the people once again turned towards Michael Manley in 1989. Nevertheless, this was not the Socialist Manley of the 1970s. He opted to continue the capitalist policies of his predecessor and so the people remained in poverty. This continued state of need, gave birth to a rise in gang activity and the gunmen who sustain it. This has become another threat to Jamaican sovereignty as the government seems locked in a persisting war with the gunmen to maintain control of the nation.
 Compton’s New Century Encyclopeadia and Reference Collection, 4th ed., s.v “Thirty Years’ War.”
 Graham Evans and Jeffrey Newnham, eds., Penguin Dictionary of International Relations (London: The
Penguin Group, 1998) s.v. “Sovereignty.”