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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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CONTENTS OF
THIS SECTION

Last updated
12/09/07

Instruments & Judicial Determinations

Country Studies

Tamil Eelam - Right to Self Determination
Decision of the Council of the League of Nations on the Aaland Islands
Aceh - Freedom Movement and in PDF

Biafra "...the idea of an independent Ibo homeland has regained strength in recent years...A separatist group, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), formed in 1999 and has drawn increasing support, especially among young people..."We have many graduates in Biafra but many of them are in the market pushing wheelbarrows because they don't have anything else,"..."We should have our own country so everyone can have the opportunity to show what they can do"  - 2006

Cabinda - Angola:  Right of Self Determination -Elizabeth M. Jamilah Koné, 1998  "...Cabinda's fight for independence is of interest to international lawyers and Africanists for several reasons. First, it exemplifies a postcolonial African liberation movement. That is, Cabinda seeks independence not from foreign colonial masters, but from unwelcome black African rule..."
East Timor Popular Consultation:  Self-Determination Denied - Catriona Drew, 1999
Eritrean Question: The Conflict between the Right of Self Determination and the Interests of the States, - Gayim 1993  "Gayim presents a case that raises questions about the political realities of the new world order. He shows the powerlessness and vulnerability of a small country like Eritrea to the whims and desires of more powerful nations. For those who have optimism in the ability of the current international regime to solve difficult disputes, generate fair and equitable outcomes and promote stability and security, Gayim presents a troubling situation which raises more questions than it answers about the principles of international law and the way they are applied.."
Greenland - Commission on Self-Government 
Israel Palestine Conflict & Self Determination -Tomis Kapitan, 1995
Israel-PLO Agreement and Self Determination - Antonio Cassese 1999

Kosovo - Conceptual Challenges, Practical Problems, Possible Future Lessons - Wolfgang Danspeckgruber 

Kurdish Declaration of Self Determination, 1992
Marshall Islands
Mayan - Guatemala
Nicaragua and Nunavut: 
A Comparative Study in Self Determination -Rodolfo Pino-Robles
International Recognition of a Unilaterally Declared Palestinian State: Legal and Policy Dilemmas
Quebec: Secession will be legal if it worked - Paul Wells, 1995
Quebec: Legality of Secession - Thomas M. Franck et al
Quebec: Right of Self Determination - Johan D Van Der Vyer
Sovereignty & Decolonisation - Realising indigenous self determination at the United Nations and Canada - Audrey Jane Roy, 1998
South Sudan - Right of Self Determination: A Legal and Political Right - David de Chand, 1995
Taiwan - Protecting the right to determine our future - Prof. Chen Lung-chu, chairman of the Taiwan New Century Foundation, 2003
Tibetan Peoples Right to Self Determination, 1998
Fourth World - Nations without a State
Nations & Nationalism
Admission of New States to the International Community - Christian Hillgruber, 1998

Are criteria for statehood in international law based on the principle of effectiveness not legitimacy?  Subin Nijhawan, December 2003

Personality, Statehood and Government - A Framework for Study by Dr.Guglielmo Verdirame,
Public International Law,
Cambridge University, Michaelmus, 2004

Study of  Discrimination against Indigenous Populations -   Excerpts from Reports by Jose Martinez Cobo

Exploring the Future of Self-Determination, Sovereignty, & Governance - Naom Chomsky et al
Diversity and Self-Determination in International Law - Karen Knop, 2003 - table of contents - excerpts
Devolution & Constitutional Change
Self-Determination
Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity, and the Right to Secession, Patricia Carley
- Report from a Roundtable held in 1995 Conjunction with the US Department of State's Policy Planning Staff
Self-Determination of Peoples - a Legal Appraisal - Antonio Cassese, 1998
The Self-determination Trap - Marc Weller, 2005
Secession and Self Determination - Stephen Macedo and Allen Buchanan, Eds.New York University Press, Reviewed by Jason Sorens
Dilemmas of Self-Determination - Edward A. Kolodziej, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Sovereignty after Empire: Self-Determination Movements in the Former Soviet Union  - Galina Starovoitova, United States Instiute for Peace, 1997
Understanding Self Determination - Karen Parker, 2000
Implementation of the Right to Self Determination as a contribution to Conflict Prevention, 1998
International Institute for Self Determination
Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination - Princeton University
Minorities at Risk Project
Bridging Self Determination & Sovereignty - the Intermediate Sovereignty Project
High Commissioner for National Minorities, OSCE
Bibiliography on Secession & International Law, 2001
The International Legal Position of Secession
International Law On Line
Self Determination and self government: "Self determination is not the same as self-government, which usually implies some version of democracy."- Professor Michael Walzer. Institute for Advanced Study,Princeton
Self Determination and the Right to a Homeland
Secession.net 
Politics of International Law - Colin J Harvey
Historic Conference on the Right to Self-Determination & the United Nations Pushes for UN Self-Determination Mechanisms - August 2000

Library
Visit the
Nations & Nationalism Section of Library

 

Self Determination: principle & the law

Collated & Sequenced by Nadesan Satyendra

".. Self determination is not a de stabilising concept. Self determination and democracy go hand in hand. If democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for the people, then the principle of self determination secures that no one people may rule another - and herein lies its enduring appeal... And we may need to attend more carefully to the words of of Yelena Bonner (widow of Andrei Sakharov) that  'the inviolability of a country's borders against invasion from the outside must be clearly separated from the right to statehood of any people within a state's borders.' " Nadesan Satyendra in the Fourth World - Nations without a State

 
1. "All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. .."  Article 1.1, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966

2. "..the right of peoples to self- determination exists as such in modern international law, with all the consequences that flow there from..." Hector Gros Espiell, Special Rapporteur of the Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 1980

3. "... the principle and fundamental right of self-determination is firmly established in international law..." Barcelona UNESCO Conference 1998  

4."....If self-determination is an internationally recognized principle, why does it not apply to the people of West Irian, East Timor, Tibet, Kashmir and other territories, as it has been applied to other colonial territories? " Self-Determination: An Affirmative Right or Mere Rhetoric ? - Halim Moris, 1997

5. "...All too often self-determination is a right to be defended in lofty terms when it is politically advantageous and to be rejected when it is not..." Principle of Self Determination - Rupert Emerson, 1964

6. "...International law is political...We must abandon the myth that with law we enter the secure, stable and determinate. In reality we are simply engaged in another discursive political practice about how we should live." - Dr Colin J Harvey, Assistant Director, Human Rights Centre. School of Law, Queen's University of Belfast

7.  ".. States do not encourage the breakup of other states because virtually all states are vulnerable.."" Self Determination & Separation  - C. Lloyd Brown-John, 1997

8.".. It is a stunning fact to consider that just as the United States, France, England, Germany, Russia and Italy roll their troops into Kosovo to preserve the peace and secure human rights and self-determination, these same states have become active leaders in the drive to rewrite international law denying self-determination to Fourth World nations all around the world. .." Killing for Self Determination - Rudolph C. Rÿser, 1999

9.."... Self-determination... has been domesticated to serve the interests of ruling classes. Its present state, in United Nations practice, is a bewildering complex of radicalism and conservatism. .." The Right to Self Determination: Issues Raised - Leo Kuper, 1985

10. "...As more and more newly independent States took their seats in the United Nations, the balance of voting power within the organisation shifted in their favour. It was in their interest to regularise de-colonisation, and law followed reality...The dominant peoples of the States, whose collective interests was embodied in the Declaration, limited the right to Statehood to the context of external de-colonisation, that is, independence for each colonial territory from foreign colonial rule..." External Self Determination, Internal De-Colonisation and Conflict Prevention - S.Sathananthan, 1999

11."...state practice since 1945 shows very clearly the extreme reluctance of states to recognise or accept unilateral secession outside the colonial context..." State Practice and International Law in Relation to Unilateral Secession - James Crawford, 1997

12."..In light of the decreased readiness to recognize new states in the emerging international system it is thus important to offer new concepts ..." Self Governance & Regional Integration: A solution to self determination or secession claims in the emerging international system - Wolfgang Danspeckgruber, 2002

13."...Whether self-determination takes the form of the creation of a state, a federal entity, or a confederation of states, ethnic power-sharing arrangements must be explored...." Revisiting Self Determination as an International Law Concept - V.P.Nanda,1996

14.  "The right to self-determination has become one of the most complex issues for U.S. foreign policymakers and the international community at large. Confusion over the issue stems not so much from whether there exists a right to self-determination, which is included in many international human rights documents, but from the failure of those documents to define exactly who is entitled to claim this right—a group, a people, or a nation—and what exactly the right confers.At the same time, the international system, particularly in the post–World War II era, has steadfastly defended the inviolability of existing nation-states’ borders, regardless of how and when they were determined. In recent years, many groups that constitute minorities in their states have invoked the “right to self-determination” in their demands for autonomy— or, in some cases, secession—and have resorted to violence to pursue their aims. These groups typically justify their demand for self-determination as a way to end years of repression and human rights violations by the majority ethnic group or the central government. The absence of a precise definition of what the right to self-determination entails has left the international community, and the states concerned, without guiding principles with which to respond." Self Determination - Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity, and the Right to Secession - US Department of State's Policy Planning Staff

15. "The right of self-determination for all peoples was first enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. The right to self-determination, however, has been the subject of extensive debate and controversy. It is important to note that both the content of the right to self-determination as well as who can assert that right continue to evolve in international law.... More recently, it has been postulated that the right to self-determination can be exercised "internally" as well. Internal self-determination allows a people broader control over their political, economic, social and cultural development, while stopping short of secession.  The development of a new conception of "peoples" has evolved with the development of the idea of internal self-determination. In this context, the definition of "peoples" is not limited to the population of a fixed territorial entity. Rather, "peoples" also encompasses indigenous groups, and potentially some minorities..." Minority Rights Group on Internal Self Determination

16.  "Concepts of liberty are sometimes divided into "negative" and "positive" varieties. While the distinction is open to criticism, it suggests an analogous distinction with respect to the ideal of state autonomy. The negative aspect of state autonomy is expressed by the principle of non intervention, which protects the right of a state already recognized as independent "to choose its political, economic, social and cultural systems, without interference in any form by another State." The positive aspect of state autonomy is expressed by the principle of self-determination, which holds that colonies or other entities under foreign control have a right to independent statehood...""Self-Determination," in Political Theory and International Relations - Charles Beitz, 1979

17."..The purpose of this report is ... to explore the interface between the concept of self-determination at the level of international law and the institutional solutions for its realisation that are available at the level of national constitutional law..." Constitutional Options for Self Determination What Works? - Markku Suksi, 1999

18. "... the noble and necessary principle of self-determination of peoples is becoming the opening for a new form of tribalism and it is encouraging some of the most reactionary tendencies present in contemporary society. If we wish to prevent it, we need to include its demands in a legal framework shared both by the community claiming self-determination and by the community that is rejecting it..." A critical analysis of the self determination of peoples - Danielle Achibugi, 2002

 19. "The experience of the 20th century, in which scores of millions died in conflicts between nationally-defined states, has called into doubt the wisdom of the present state-dominated international system. Outbreaks of ethnic conflict during the period of decolonization and after the end of the Cold War have raised further questions regarding the viability of peace among nationally-defined states... Claims to self-determination are frequently in conflict with one another, and no clear standards have been established to distinguish those claims that will be accepted from those that will not. The pursuit of self-determination has been and will likely continue to be a constant source of tension and disorder.." Self-Determination and Disorder - Stephen E. Sachs, Merton College, Oxford 2003

20. " There is a large body of research on possible forms of self-determination...My concrete suggestion, therefore, is to seek to establish a more tolerant and flexible approach to self-determination in its great variety of forms and to publicize the many contributions it could make to the reduction of destructive internal conflicts..."  Leo Kuper in The Prevention of Genocide, 1985

21.  "One can address the right of self-determination from a number of different perspectives...In the following discussion, I will link self-determination to human rights in two different ways. First, I explore self-determination as a human right, addressing issues of content and definition. Second, I discuss the impact of self-determination claims on other human rights...There are numerous problems in defining both "peoples" and what they are entitled to "determine." " The right of self-determination in the twenty-first century, Hannum, Hurst in The Washington and Lee Law Review, Summer 1998

22."... Self-determination is one of the most important principles of contemporary international law ... Equally important is respect for territorial integrity and political unity of states.. A balance has to be struck between them...This project will present and analyse novel ways of overcoming apparently insoluble self determination conflicts through complex power sharing arrangements concluded and implemented with international involvement." Carnegie Project on Complex Power Sharing and Self Determination, 2002

23. "..Many civil wars are provoked by secession crises in which minority groups seek to secede from an existing state, state governments object to secession plans, and violent confrontation is the result. We argue that the principles embodied in international policy induce the actors in secession crises to engage in violent conflict to further their goals rather than seek peaceful resolution of their differences. Instead, we urge alteration of international policy to provide incentives for the adoption of peaceful behaviors and norms that can foster long-term cooperation and stability. We hold few illusions about the ease with which stability can be secured in many regions of the world..." Non Exclusionary Criteria and Stability in International Policy Making about Secession Crisis - Nedzad Basic, David Goetze, Charles Anthony Smith, 2004

24. "...The swiftly evolving information and communication technologies and networking infrastructures are playing an expanding role in supporting the self-determination of peoples and emergent nations.." Self Determination in the Information Age, 1995

25.".. if the minority group seeks to be self-governing, or to secede from the larger state, increased representation at the centre will not be satisfactory. The problem in this case is that the group does not identify with the centre, or want to be part of that political community...One conclusion that can be drawn is that, in some cases, secession/partition of the two communities, where that option is available, is the best outcome overall. .." Normative justifications for liberal nationalism - Margaret Moore, 2001

26. "...What is meant by the Self Determination of Nations?.. Should the answer be sought in legal definitions deduced from all sorts of "general concepts" of law? Or is it rather to be sought in a historico-economic study of the national movements?... To accuse those who support freedom of self-determination, i.e. freedom to secede, of encouraging separatism, is as foolish and hypocritical as accusing those who advocate freedom of divorce of encouraging the destruction of family ties...." V.I.Lenin, 1914

 27. "..The focus of the liberal international order is on the curtailment of the abuse of political power, not economic power. It has few, if any, systematic means to address sources of power other than the political  Its conceptual resources and leading ideas do not suggest or push toward the pursuit of self-determination and autonomy in the economic domain; they do not seek the entrenchment of democratic rights and obligations outside the sphere of the political. Hence, it is hardly a surprise that liberal democracy and flourishing economic inequalities exist side by side..." The Changing Structure of International Law: Sovereignty Transformed? - David Held, 2003

28.  "...The principle of national self-determination, like all abstract political terms, has in the course of time undergone changes in meaning and connotation. Its core meaning remains ‘the belief that each nation has a right to constitute an independent state and determine its own government.’ This definition begs the question: What exactly is a nation?  A ‘nation’ is a group of people who share a significant number (but by means necessarily all) of the following attributes: history, language, ethnic origin, religion, political belief, fear of the same adversaries. In short, a nation may be defined as ‘a community that is, or wishes to be, a state.’ ...Frequently the terms ‘self-determination’ and ‘self-determination of peoples’ have been used synonymously with ‘national self-determination’. However, these two terms can also have broader and vaguer meanings, not necessarily associated with separate sovereign statehood for each nation..." Adam Roberts, Balliol College, Oxford - Core Lectures on  ‘International Relations’  - National Self-Determination 2003

29. ".. whatever answer the statesman or the philosopher may give to this question, the working answer is presumably the same: if other peoples, no better qualified for it than we, have been allowed to clutter up the international stage, why should a new set of rules now suddenly be invoked to deny us our equal right?..." Principle of Self Determination - Rupert Emerson, 1964

30."...Let us accept the fact that states have lifecycles similar to those of human beings who created them. The lifecycle of a state might last for many generations, but hardly any Member State of the United Nations has existed within its present borders for longer than five generations. The attempt to freeze human evolution has in the past been a futile undertaking and has probably brought about more violence than if such a process had been controlled peacefully...Restrictions on self-determination threaten not only democracy itself but the state which seeks its legitimation in democracy"  Self Determination & the Future of Democracy  - Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, 2001

31."...the way a government treats its own people is not just an "internal matter"; it is the business of the international community, for there are issues of both universal values and regional peace at stake. By extension, this principle gives American diplomacy a template for supporting self-determination without necessarily encouraging secessionism... Democracy is the political system most explicitly designed to ensure self-determination. Democracy can be a vehicle for peaceful secession..." Self Determination in an Inter Dependent World - Strobe Talbott, US Deputy Secretary of State, 2000

32. "..The appeal of the principle of national self-determination is simple, for it is surely better that nations should determine their own destinies than that someone else should do it for them. The concept of national self-determination appears to express the idea of democracy, according to which the people are presumed to be best qualified to govern themselves. International law also appears to recognize the right to national self-determination unreservedly. The common Article 1 of the covenants on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights proclaims that all peoples have the right to self-determination.  The appeal of national self-determination is, however, not restricted to democrats and has deeper roots in human nature. All human beings live in groups, and all persistent groups share a common culture. Commitment to a common culture entails an inclination to resist the imposition of alien cultures, although groups respond in various ways to contact with and subjection to other cultures: collaboration, assimilation and resistance are options commonly available. Nevertheless, the desire for cultural autonomy is one of the oldest forms of political motivation known to history, and the right to national self-determination is the principal modern form of its recognition..."  Michael Freeman, "National Self-Determination, Peace and Human Right", Peace Review, Vol. 10, no. 2 (1 June 1998)

33. "...In today’s world, there are more than 2000 thousand ethnic groups but only 192 states. When dominant ethnic groups ignore the socio-economic and cultural identity needs and rights of other peoples within the same state, demands for self-determination arise. Wars that threaten the stability of whole regions often result. This book – the collected papers of the historic First International Conference on the Right to Self-Determination & the United Nations held in Geneva in August, 2000 – is unique in that the issue of the right to self-determination is explored within the context of just demands by those to whom it means the most.

It presents the views of minority members of various parliaments, UN experts and distinguished scholars, as well as interventions from NGO attendees from all corners of the globe expressing the self-determination needs and struggles of a wide range of indigenous populations, minorities, and internal nations: Kashmiris, QuebeÇois, Irish, Tamils, Native Americans, African Americans, , Saamis, South Moluccans, Roma, Dalits of India, Canadian First Nations, Khmer Krom of Vietnam, Chechens, Mon of Burma, Puerto Ricans, Native Hawaiians, the Quichua indigenous nation of Ecuador, the Zanzibaris, etc.

The Collected Papers address such questions as: The role of the UN in implementing just demands for self-determination; Self-determination as a form of collective restorative justice; The relationship between policies of forced assimilation and racism, ethnocide and armed conflict; Self-determination through minority rights, internal autonomy or Secession; Self-determination as a means of further democratization of the UN and the international system" *Y. N. Kly (Preface), D. Kly, Richard Falk In Pursuit of the Right to Self-Determination Collected Papers of the First International Conference, 2000

34.".. Self determination and democracy go hand in hand. If democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for the people, then the principle of self determination secures that no one people may rule another - and herein lies its enduring appeal..." Nadesan Satyendra in Why Division, 1998


Instruments &  Judicial Determinations

Customs Régime between Germany and Austria (Protocol of March 19th, 1931) - Permanent Court of International Justice,  Advisory Opinion

Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, 1933
Atlantic Charter, 1941
United Nations Charter 1945
UN General Assembly Declaration (1514), 1960

Declaration on the Granting of Independence
to Colonial Countries and Peoples

UN General Assembly Resolution (1803), 1962

Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources

UN General Resolution 2105 (XX) of 20 December 1965

Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples

UN General Assembly Resolution (2131)on Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States  and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty, 1965 
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966
International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights 1966
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1966
UN General Assembly Resolution (2625) 1970 

Declaration on Principles of International Law 
Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations

UN General Assembly Resolution 2649 (XXV) (1970)

The importance of the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination and of the speedy granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights

UN General Assembly Resolution 2787 (XXVI) of December 6, 1971
UN General Assembly Resolution 3070 (XXVIII) of 30 November 1973
UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 on Definition of Aggression, 1974
UN General Assembly resolution 3318 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974
Helsinki Accord of 1975
Western Sahara - International Court of Justice: Advisory Opinion of 16 October 1975
Algiers Declaration of the Rights Of Peoples, 4 July 1976
UN General Assembly Resolution 32/147 of 16 December 1977
UN General Assembly Resolution on Implementation the Strengthening of International Security, 1984
UN General Assembly Resolution on Universal realisation of the right of peoples to self determination, 1988
UN General Assembly Resolution on Respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples 1989
UN General Assembly Resolution on Universal Realisation of the right of peoples to self determination, 1992
United Nations Declaration on Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, 1992
UN General Assembly Resolution on Universal Realisation of the right of peoples to self determination, 1993
Question of Western Sahara - UN General Assembly Resolution, 1993
Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination - Note by the United Nation Secretary-General, 1994
Helsinki Final Act, 1995
Question of Western Sahara - UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1996
Question of Western Sahara - Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1998
Right of peoples to self-determination - Report of  Secretary-General, UNCHR 1998
Third Report on the Law of Treaties - J.L. Brierly, Special Rapporteur,  International Law Commission, 1952
 
 
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