Commission on Very Small States

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Some of Ill Bethisad's smallest states

The Commission of Very Small States (Commission sur les Très Petits États) is one of the League of Nations' oldest standing commissions, and was the first "non-geographic regional committee" to be established. The five founding members were Armorica, Grand Fenwick, San Marino, Monaco, and Andorra. To date, there is no official definition of "very small," only a consensus that new committee members should be comparable in area, population, or both to the original members.

The purpose of the commission was to provide a forum for discussing issues important to the world's tiniest polities. Over the years it has also served as a way for very small states to act as a bloc within the League and make their tiny voices heard, and as a way to pool resources and offer aid to emerging very small states. It should be noted that CVSS members normally object to the term "microstate."

The CVSS is something of a "rogue committee" in that it has taken on a role outside the normal League framework. The Commissioners have an office and conference rooms on Level 14.5 of the North Wing in the League of Nations building, but often hold "extraordinary meetings" in different small countries. "What better way to acquire a firm knowledge and understanding of the needs of a very small state than to meet in a very small state?" So said John Bacon, Fenwickian vice-minister. Normal CVSS business is conducted at League HQ, though Commissioner meetings are often held away from HQ. In 2006 the official conference room was unlocked just thirteen times -- 12 monthly cleanings and one instance when the New Dalmatian delegate was looking for a misplaced briefcase. Recent meetings have taken place in Henua (Sept. 2008), Fernando Poo (Apr. 2009), Ajman in the Thousand Emirates (Aug. 2009), and Banaba (May 2010).

The CVSS doesn't meet too often because of the expense involved. Unless a major event of interest occurs, the delegates do not convene more than two or three times a year.

Francien is the CVSS's official working language. This dates to the committee's founding, when four out of the original five members shared borders with France, making it the obvious lingua franca. Due to large numbers of members or observers from Italy, South Florida, and the Thousand Emirates, Italian, Castilian, and Arabic are also often used informally.

The Commission's Secretariat, which manages whatever day-to-day business might arise, also tends to move around depending on who the current secretary is. Currently the Secretariat is located in the High Chiefdom of Banaba, where it had moved in June 2008. This was done mainly so the CVSS could locate itself closer to Tokelau and be involved in the ongoing dispute there. A new secretary from Hay-on-Wye has recently been appointed, and the Secretariat is in the process of moving itself there. Between 2002 and 2008, the Secretarial staff had divided its time between League headquarters and San Marino.

The CVSS is also rather lenient in granting "permanent observer" status to entities not recognized by the international community. Since it's technically a committee of the League of Nations and not an organization in its own right, CVSS members have to be League members as well. Permanent Observers, on the other hand, can be countries not recognized by the League, but which still stand to benefit from an organization for tiny countries. Such states include Free Lithuania and some of the newly autonomous Floridian states. In terms of the internal operations of the Commission, members and permanent observers have the same status. Their votes all count when the Commission has to vote on something. The category was created for the strangely governed Isle of Lundy early in the 20th century.

One CVSS duty is organizing the Very Small States Games. These are held only sporadically owing to the expense involved. Scheduling them around the Small States Games of Europe -- which are dominated, in the words of one Grand Fenwickian diplomat, "by the Rather Small States at the expense of the Very Small" -- can also be difficult. The VSS Games were last held in San Marino in 2004.

The CVSS's advocacy on behalf of small self-declared independent states may grab the most headlines, but the commission's real value, and most of its day-to-day work, is as a brain trust. One of the biggest challenges that its members face is a lack of local expertise on important matters like economics, trade, finance, and ecology. The CVSS helps its members link up with the right expert advisers. It also sponsors research on issues related to small countries, and it helped create the field of "micromacroeconomics" - or the Economics of Small Economies, also the title of a quarterly journal.

The minor scandal over South Florida a couple of years ago led to something of a shake-up in the Commission. Officially neutral member states (like Mount Athos) were deeply upset at the Secretariat's strong denouncement of the RTC's occupation of Florida. The Secretary involved did retire gracefully, to be replaced by a much less outspoken Monegasque diplomat. For the time being, you can expect that the CVSS will avoid scandals and international incidents. Until the pendulum swings the other way - the CVSS gives Very Small State diplomats a level of visibility and safety that makes it hard to resist the temptation to vent frustrations toward the Great Powers.

In general, the rest of the League puts up with the rogue committee. The most obtrusive thing it ever does is support separatist movements in various out-of-the-way areas. On the whole it's mostly harmless, providing an important service for countries that need it.

Known members

This list is incomplete, because there are probably some as yet unknown Very Small States, especially in places like Middle Africa, India, and Oceania.





Known permanent observers