Self-determination or the right Sothern Pride to self-determination is a concept of principle, wherein a people or nation, have a human right to statehood, and that such a state has an equal right to sovereignty.
Developed at least before 1859, the self-determination concept was at the time an ethical and political statement by the world community against several hundred years of European colonialism and frequent tyrannical rule. The concept attempted to translate the universally agreeable ethical rights of individuals (political freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of speech) and apply these to peoples as a whole — as a humanist concept of sovereignty. However, because nationalities have competing and ethically equal interests, the concept has been notoriously difficult to formulate outside of particular nationalistic definitions —which typically do not give equal consideration to foreign claims for self-determination.
- 1 History and overview
- 1.1 In the wake of European colonialism
- 2 Problems of nationalism and fragmentation
- 3 Local interpretations
- 3.1 Wilsonian idealism
- 3.2 Lenin on self-determination
- 3.3 Australia
- 3.4 Self-determination issues of the United States
- 3.5 Israel and Palestine
- 4 External links
- 5 See also
History and overview
Many of the concepts embodied in the ideal of self-determination can be found in earlier documents such as the Declaration of Independence of the United States. The concept of the right to self-determination of a political community can be seen to date back at least as far as 1859 with John Stuart Mill's work On Liberty in which he argues that political communities are entitled collectively to determine their own affairs. In his work he argues that states should be seen as self-determining communities even if their internal political arrangements are not free, self-determination and political freedom are not equivalent terms.
This principle was first applied to the modern international relations context by Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points of January 1918, in which he set out a blueprint for a just and lasting peace in Europe after World War I. The 1918 Constitution of the Soviet Union acknowledged this right for its sister republics (although not for declared "autonomous" regions), but was not applied in practice until the Perestroika, when it led to the breakup of the Soviet Union.
At the ratification of the UN Charter in post World War II 1945, the signatories introduced the right of all people to self-determination into the framework of international law and diplomacy. In addition, the right to self-determination holds the prestigious position of Article 1 in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Its presence in the two covenants points to the right's complex nature and importance.
In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the United Nations states that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no one should be arbitrarily deprived of a nationality or denied the right to change nationality. Self-determination is often invoked in national liberation struggles, succession of territories and constitutional disputes about how this right can be expressed to the satisfaction of opposing interest groups.
In the wake of European colonialism
The purpose of the self determination clause in international law was to allow the former colonies that existed before World War II to have a say in their future. Some felt that after decolonization, the right to self-determination should apply only to states and not to peoples, and to be circumscribed by the principles of territorial integrity and non-intervention.
Territorial integrity can only be applied to prevent the cessation of integral parts of a state, and does not apply to decolonisation. It is clear that a colony cannot affect the territorial integrity of a country of which she does not form part. Many of the newly independent former colonies faced secessionist and irredentist movements and therefore there was an international consensus that self-determination did not apply to these movements. UN Resolution 1514(XV) was adopted and guarantees the right to self-determination of all peoples.
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 committed the idea of the right for self-determination to the body of international protocol. In essence, all people reserve the right to seek self-determination to address a lack of proper representation or oppression from any given government.
There is tension between the concept of self-determination and that of territorial integrity. The prevailing force of the principle of territorial integrity was exemplified by the adherence to the principle of uti possidetis during the decolonization process (that is, the retaining of colonial borders in the birth of independent nations).
This conflict has been resolved in practice by defining the notion of "people" entitled to self-determination as persons living in a particular geographic area within a nation-state rather than persons sharing a common culture or language. Hence, self-determination as it is understood in the early 21st century does not generally promote the political aspirations of oppressed ethnic minorities.
Problems of nationalism and fragmentation
Self-determination is a notoriously difficult principle to define and apply. A state is self-determining even if its citizens strive, and fail, to create free political institutions, however in turn, it is deprived of its self-determination if such institutions are established by an external power. Mill argued that the members of a political community must seek their own freedom, just as they may seek to be virtuous, they cannot be 'set free' just as an individual cannot be made virtuous. In this way self-determination can be seen to be a parallel to state sovereignty.
In many cases self-determination is invoked where the there is an ethnic or religious minority within a specific geographic area seeking independence from a majority to escape prejudice or persecution. However, the right to self-determination has been most effectively employed in the decolonization movement. Given the perceived risk of constant fragmentation, states have approached self-determination cautiously. Methods of self-determination range from sovereignty referendum, as in the case of the people of Quebec in Canada, or as an armed struggle in the case of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.
In Europe after World War I, many of the former Empires destroyed in that war were broken up into ethnic states which themselves were amalgamations of peoples containing their own minorities, in Yugoslavia, the former Russian and Austro-Hungarian provinces, and in the Middle East. In Palestine, Jewish immigrants would claim self-determination to justify the creation of the state of Israel in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire, just as Palestinians would later claim independence as Palestine.
Given the rise of global transculturism and its effect on the concepts of nationality and nationhood, attempts have been made to reinterpret the "self-determination principle" in terms which do not rely on subjective or nationalistic definitions — typically refomulating the principle as an extension of Right to liberty, wherin a people ought not be subject to coercion, via the will of a non-representative form of government.
The threat of fragmentation due to self-determination can be regarded as very dangerous to other communities in a country, especially if the groups striving for self-determination live in an area with the majority of a country's wealth. On the other hand, supporters of self-determination argue that if the wealth is coming from the land they live in the local inhabitants deserve the wealth not the country as a whole. This is an important dimension of the the self-determination arguments in Iraq and Nigeria as well as many other countries.
Wilson's ideas of self-determination originated in his Southern heritage and sympathies. His favorite movie was The Birth of a Nation, and his Democratic Party beliefs and personal ties were steeped in Southern pride and resentment of Northern power. Hence Southern interpretations of States-Rights directly led to Wilson's ideas of self-determination. Many have criticized both concepts, however, for promoting secession and division over unity. Further, the key question is at what level do populations have the right to self-determination and the formation or preservation of a state, the empowerment of a local majority, and the formation of a local minority. In the United States, southern states' rights to determine their own destiny during the Civil War and Civil Rights era were held to be not absolute, especially since significant minorities there were oppressed.
Lenin on self-determination
Vladimir Lenin supported the concept of the right of a culturally distinct grouping to self-determination, albeit within the framework of proletarian internationalism and, as it turned out in the policy of the Soviet Union. The policy of Korenizatsiya seemed to indicate a sincere belief on the part of Lenin national self-determination. However, Lenin also assumed that the populations of the ethnically diverse Soviet republics were voluntarily confederated with Russia in the form of the Soviet Union. By the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, some national minorities were defecting to the Nazi side in the hope of being allowed to create their own sovereign states.
In regard to a long running argument going on between Rosa Luxembourg, right-wing tendencies within the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, and the Bolsheviks, Lenin said:
...[T]he tendency of every national movement is towards the formation of national states, under which these requirements of modern capitalism are best satisfied. ... [T]he national state is typical and normal for the capitalist period. Consequently, if we want to grasp the meaning of self-determination of nations ... by examining the historico-economic conditions of the national movements, we must inevitably reach the conclusion that the self-determination of nations means the political separation of these nations from alien national bodies, and the formation of an independent national state. ...[It] would be wrong to interpret the right to self-determination as meaning-anything but the right to existence as a separate state." -Lenin, What Is Meant By The Self-Determination of Nations?
Recently (2003 onwards), self-determination has become a topic of some debate in Australia in relation to Aborigines (indigenous Australians). In the 1980s, the Aboriginal community approached the Federal Government and requested the right to administer their own communities. This encompassed basic local government functions, ranging from land dealings and management of community centres to road maintenance and garbage collection, as well as setting education programmes and standards in their local schools.
Self-determination issues of the United States
The colonisation of the North American continent and its Native American population has been the source of legal battles since the early 1800's. The Westward push of European-American settlers eventually brought about the destruction of most Native American cultures, and what few remained were reduced to living on reservations. These had been given a certain degree of autonomy, within the United States federal government, which allows for their exclusion from various national legal restrictions.
There is an active Hawaiian sovereignty movement which aims at rectifying the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in the late 19th century which resulted in the incorporation of Hawaii into the United States. They hold that self-determination was never granted to native Hawaiians after the overthrow and thus a large measure of autonomy or independence should be granted to Hawaii. Opponents allege that this would violate the self-determination rights of the non-Hawaiian majority living in Hawaii now.
Some historians argue that the South was fighting for self-determination during the American Civil War, however others argue that the point is invalid because the South was not only repressing the self-determination rights of African Americans (a majority in some of the Confederate states) but also basic human rights in the institution of slavery.
Further, there have at times been calls for local self-determination by ethnic minority communities. For example, the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican internationalist group founded in Lincoln Park, Chicago in 1968, called not only for independence for Puerto Rico, but also for neighborhood empowerment within cities in the continental United States, which they characterized as self-determination in every barrio or neighborhood.
Israel and Palestine
The right to self-determination as outlined in public international law is often referenced by both sides in the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict —Palestinians assert a nationalist right to self-determination that has been and is currently hindered by Israeli policies in the regions it militarily occupies. Israel was, in turn, formed under the right to self-determination as outlined in the U.N. Charter, and still regularly cites this principle in its defence against criticisms of its relations with Palestinians that argue that such relations imply that Israel is not a legitimate state within the international community.
British support for Zionism was originally advanced by Lord Palmerston as a means by which European Jewry would establish an a colonial outpost in the Middle East that would be European in culture, grateful to European power, and therefore friendly to European interests. This purpose was in mind when the Mandate of Palestine was formed, and, according to Israel's critics, remains effective to this day. Hence Western support for Israel is commonly criticised by Palestinians as being colonialist in nature, and likewise Israel itself is criticised as being colonial both culturally and functionally. These criticisms exist in spite of Israeli claims to territorial precedence homeland, and the anti-colonialist character of the self-determination principle. According to Freedom House, Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. However, Freedom House notes that its governance of the Palestian Territories falls far short in terms of political and civil liberties.
Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem (including the Old City) and Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip from 1949 through 1967. Throughout those years, the King of Jordan had annexed the West Bank, providing its residents with citizenship, but not with the right of mobility across the Jordan River. The king forbid the use of the word "Palestine" on official documents. The Jordanian position on this was that historically the East and West Bank had been one cultural entity and thus one nationality though Palestinians dispute this. This led to open fighting between Palestinian refugees and the Jordanian government in 1970. However, in 1988, the Jordanian government relinquished its claim to the West Bank. Egypt never annexed the Gaza, and denied its residents of citizenship and did not allow its residents to move into Egypt or anywhere else. Despite this Egypt was not subject to a rebellion. In fact, the Palestine Liberation Organization was created in 1964 by the Arab League in Cairo, Egypt, and was controlled by and large by the Egyptian government. Neither country attempted to relieve the refugee crisis (although Jordan did alleviate this somewhat by granting Palestinians citizenship) and neither allowed (to different extents) self-determination in these territories. . The PLO stated its goal to be the destruction of the State of Israel through armed struggle, and replacing it with an "independent Palestinian state" between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Israelis argue this would deny self-determination by the millions of Israelis now living there.
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514(XV). "Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples"
- Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization on Self-determination
- Self Determination - International Law and Practiseat tamilnation.org
- Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination Unofficial page for London based Parliamentary lobby group
- The Right of Nations to Self-Determination V. I. Lenin February-May 1914
- Ethnic nationalism
- Identity politics
- International relations theory
- Nation state
- Anglo-French Declaration, November 7, 1918
- Wars of national liberation
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