The right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern
international law International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally accepted in relations between nations. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptual framework to guide ...
(commonly regarded as a '' jus cogens'' rule), binding, as such, on the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for har ...
as authoritative interpretation of the Charter's norms. It states that people, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, have the right to freely choose their
sovereignty Sovereignty is the supreme authority within a territory. In any state, sovereignty is assigned to the person, body, or institution that has the ultimate authority over other people in order to establish a law or change an existing law. In polit ...
and international political status with no interference. The concept was first expressed in the 1860s, and spread rapidly thereafter. During and after
World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously known as the Great War or "The war to end war, the war ...
, the principle was encouraged by both Soviet Premier
Vladimir Lenin Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. ( 1870 – 21 January 1924), better known by his alias Lenin,. was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as the first and founding Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of th ...

Vladimir Lenin
and United States President Woodrow Wilson. Having announced his Fourteen Points on 8 January 1918, on 11 February 1918 Wilson stated: "National aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. 'Self determination' is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action." During
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great ...
, the principle was included in the Atlantic Charter, declared on 14 August 1941, by Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, and
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, during the Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as W ...

Winston Churchill
, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who pledged The Eight Principal points of the Charter. It was recognized as an international legal right after it was explicitly listed as a right in the UN Charter. The principle does not state how the decision is to be made, nor what the outcome should be, whether it be
independence upright=1.0, Pedro I of Brazil, Pedro surrounded by a crowd in São Paulo after breaking the news of Independence of Brazil, Brazil's independence on September 7, 1822. Independence is a condition of a person, nation, country, or Sovereign state ...
, federation, protectorate, protection, some form of autonomy or full Cultural assimilation, assimilation. Neither does it state what the boundary delimitation, delimitation between peoples should be—nor what Nation-building, constitutes a people. There are conflicting definitions and legal criteria for determining which groups may legitimately claim the right to self-determination.Betty Miller Unterberger
''Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy,'' 2002.
Broadly speaking, the term self-determination also refers to the free choice of one's own acts without external compulsion.


Pre-20th century


The employment of imperialism, through the expansion of empires, and the concept of political sovereignty, as developed after the Treaty of Westphalia, also explains the emergence of self-determination during the modern era. During, and after, the Industrial Revolution many groups of people recognized their shared history, geography, language, and customs. Nationalism emerged as a uniting ideology not only between competing powers, but also for groups that felt subordinated or disenfranchised inside larger states; in this situation, self-determination can be seen as a reaction to imperialism. Such groups often pursued independence and sovereignty over territory, but sometimes a different sense of autonomy has been pursued or achieved.


The world possessed several traditional, continental empires such as the Ottoman Empire, Ottoman, Russian Empire, Russian, Austrian Empire, Austrian/Habsburg, and the Qing Empire. Political scientists often define competition in Europe during the Modern Era as a Balance of power in international relations, balance of power struggle, which also induced various European states to pursue colonial empires, beginning with the Spanish Empire, Spanish and Portuguese Empire, Portuguese, and later including the British Empire, British, French colonial empire, French, Dutch Empire, Dutch, and German colonial empire, German. During the early 19th century, competition in Europe produced multiple wars, most notably the Napoleonic Wars. After this conflict, the British Empire became dominant and entered its Britain's Imperial Century, "imperial century", while nationalism became a powerful political ideology in Europe. Later, after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, "New Imperialism" was unleashed with Second French colonial empire, France and later German colonial empire, Germany establishing colonies in Middle East, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and Africa. Empire of Japan, Japan also emerged as a new power. Multiple theaters of competition developed across the world: * Africa: multiple European states competed for colonies in the "Scramble for Africa"; * Central Asia: Russian Empire, Russia and British Empire, Britain competed for domination in the "Great Game" * Eastern Asia: colonies and various spheres of influence were established, largely to the detriment of the Qing Empire. The Ottoman Empire, Austrian Empire, Russian Empire, Qing dynasty, Qing Empire and the new Empire of Japan maintained themselves, often expanding or contracting at the expense of another empire. All ignored notions of self-determination for those governed.

Rebellions and emergence of nationalism

The American Revolution of the 1770's has been seen as the first assertion of the right of national and democratic self-determination, because of the explicit invocation of natural law, the Natural rights and legal rights, natural rights of man, as well as the Consent of the governed, consent of, and Popular sovereignty in the United States, sovereignty by, the people governed; these ideas were inspired particularly by John Locke's Age of Enlightenment, enlightened writings of the previous century. Thomas Jefferson further promoted the notion that the will of the people was supreme, especially through authorship of the United States Declaration of Independence which inspired Europeans throughout the 19th century. The French Revolution was motivated similarly and legitimatized the ideas of self-determination on that Old World continent. Within the New World during the early 19th century, most of the nations of Hispanic America, Spanish America achieved Spanish American wars of independence, independence from Spain. The United States supported that status, as policy in the hemisphere relative to History of colonialism, European colonialism, with the Monroe Doctrine. The American public, organized associated groups, and Congressional resolutions, often supported such movements, particularly the Greek War of Independence (1821–29) and the 12 points of the Hungarian Revolutionaries of 1848, demands of Hungarian revolutionaries in 1848. Such support, however, never became official government policy, due to balancing of other national interests. After the American Civil War and with increasing capability, the United States government did not accept self-determination as a basis during its Purchase of Alaska and attempted purchase of the West Indies, West Indian islands of Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint Thomas and St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint John in the 1860s, or its growing influence in the Hawaiian Kingdom, Kingdom of Hawaii, that led to Newlands Resolution, annexation in 1898. With its victory in the Spanish–American War in 1899 and its growing stature in the world, the United States supported annexation of the former Spanish colonies of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, without the consent of their peoples, and it retained "quasi-suzerainty" over Republic of Cuba (1902–1959), Cuba, as well. Nationalist sentiments emerged inside the traditional empires including: Pan-Slavism in Russia; Ottomanism, Kemalist ideology and Arab nationalism in the Ottoman Empire; State Shintoism and Japanese nationalism, Japanese identity in Japan; and Chinese nationalism, Han identity in juxtaposition to the Manchu people, Manchurian ruling class in China. Meanwhile, in Europe itself there was a Rise of nationalism in Europe, rise of nationalism, with nations such as Greek War of Independence, Greece, Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Hungary, Greater Poland Uprising (1848), Poland and Bulgarian unification, Bulgaria seeking or winning their independence. Karl Marx supported such nationalism, believing it might be a "prior condition" to social reform and international alliances. In 1914
Vladimir Lenin Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. ( 1870 – 21 January 1924), better known by his alias Lenin,. was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as the first and founding Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of th ...

Vladimir Lenin
wrote: "[It] would be wrong to interpret the right to self-determination as meaning anything but the right to existence as a separate state."

World Wars I and II

Europe, Asia and Africa

Woodrow Wilson revived America's commitment to self-determination, at least for European states, during World War I. When the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia in the October Revolution, they called for Russia's immediate withdrawal as a member of the Allies of World War I. They also supported the right of all nations, including colonies, to self-determination." The 1918 Soviet Russia Constitution of 1918, Constitution of the Soviet Union acknowledged the right of secession for its constituent republics. This presented a challenge to Wilson's more limited demands. In January 1918 Wilson issued his Fourteen Points of January 1918 which, among other things, called for adjustment of colonial claims, insofar as the interests of colonial powers had equal weight with the claims of subject peoples. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Russia–Central Powers), Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 led to Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Soviet Russia's exit from the war and the nominal independence of Armenia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Georgia and Poland, though in fact those territories were under German control. The end of the war led to the dissolution of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire and Czechoslovakia and the union of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and the Kingdom of Serbia as new states out of the wreckage of the Habsburg Monarchy, Habsburg empire. However, this imposition of states where some nationalities (especially Poles, Czechs, and Serbs and Romanians) were given power over nationalities who disliked and distrusted them was eventually used as a pretext for German aggression in
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great ...
. Wilson publicly argued that the agreements made in the aftermath of the war would be a "readjustment of those great injustices which underlie the whole structure of European and Asiatic society", which he attributed to the absence of democratic rule. The new order emerging in the postwar period would, according to Wilson, place governments "in the hands of the people and taken out of the hands of coteries and of sovereigns, who had to right to rule over the people." The League of Nations was established as the symbol of the emerging postwar order; one of its earliest tasks was to legitimize the territorial boundaries of the new Nation state, nations-states created in the territories of the former Ottoman Empire, Asia, and Africa. The principle of self-determination did not extend so far as to end colonialism; under the reasoning that the local populations were not civilized enough the League of Nations was to assign each of the post-Ottoman, Asian and African states and colonies to a European power by the grant of a League of Nations mandate. One of the German objections to the Treaty of Versailles was a somewhat selective application of the principle of self-determination as the majority of the people in Austria and in the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia wanted to join Germany while the majority of people in Free City of Danzig, Danzig wanted to remain within the ''Reich'', but the Allies ignored the German objections. Wilson's 14 Points had called for History of Poland (1918–1939), Polish independence to be restored and Poland to have "secure access to the sea", which would imply that the German city of Danzig (modern Gdańsk, Poland), which occupied a strategic location where the Vistula, Vistula River flowed into the Baltic Sea, be ceded to Poland.Macmillan, Margaret ''Paris 1919'', New York: Random House page 211. At the Paris Peace Conference (1919–1920), Paris Peace Conference in 1919, the Polish delegation led by Roman Dmowski asked for Wilson to honor point 14 of the 14 points by transferring Danzig to Poland. arguing that Poland would not be economically viable without Danzig. However, as the 90% of the people in Danzig in this period were Germans, German, the Allied leaders at the Paris peace conference compromised by creating the Free City of Danzig, a city-state in which Poland had certain special rights. Through the city of Danzig was 90% German and 10% Polish, the surrounding countryside around Danzig was overwhelmingly Polish, and the ethnically Polish rural areas included in the Free City of Danzig objected, arguing that they wanted to be part of Poland. Neither the Poles nor the Germans were happy with this compromise and the Danzig issue became a flash-point of German-Polish tension throughout the interwar period. During the 1920s and 1930s there were some successful movements for self-determination in the beginnings of the process of decolonization. In the Statute of Westminster 1931, Statute of Westminster the United Kingdom granted independence to Canada, Dominion of New Zealand, New Zealand, Newfoundland and Labrador, Newfoundland, the Irish Free State, the Australia, Commonwealth of Australia, and the Union of South Africa after the British parliament declared itself as incapable of passing laws over them without their consent. Kingdom of Egypt, Egypt, Kingdom of Afghanistan, Afghanistan, and Kingdom of Iraq, Iraq also achieved independence from Britain and Lebanon from France. Other efforts were unsuccessful, like the Indian independence movement. And Italy, Japan and Germany all initiated new efforts to bring certain territories under their control, leading to World War II. In particular, the National Socialist Program invoked this right of nations in its first point (out of 25), as it was publicly proclaimed on 24 February 1920 by Adolf Hitler. In Asia, Japan became a rising power and gained more respect from Western powers after its victory in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan joined the Allied Powers in World War I and Japan during World War I, attacked German colonial possessions in the Far East, adding former German possessions to its own empire. In the 1930s, Japan gained significant influence in Inner Mongolia and Manchuria after it Mukden Incident, invaded Manchuria. It established Manchukuo, a puppet state in Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia. This was essentially the model Japan followed as it invaded other areas in Asia and established the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Japan went to considerable trouble to argue that Manchukuo was justified by the principle of self-determination, claiming that people of Manchuria wanted to break away from China and asked the Kwantung Army to intervene on their behalf. However, the Lytton Report, Lytton commission which had been appointed by the League of Nations to decide if Japan had committed aggression or not, stated the majority of people in Manchuria who were Han Chinese who did not wish to leave China. In 1912, the Republic of China (1912–1949), Republic of China officially successor state, succeeded the Qing Dynasty, while Outer Mongolia, Tibet (1912–1951), Tibet and Tannu Uriankhai, Tuva proclaimed their independence. Independence was not accepted by the Beiyang government, government of China. By the Treaty of Kyakhta (1915) Outer Mongolia, 1911-1919, Outer Mongolia recognized China's sovereignty. However, the Soviet Union, Soviet threat of seizing parts of Inner Mongolia induced China to recognize Mongolian People's Republic, Outer Mongolia's independence, provided that a referendum was held. The referendum took place on October 20, 1945, with (according to official numbers) 100% of the electorate voting for independence. Many of East Asia, Eastern Asia's current disputes to sovereignty and self-determination stem from unresolved disputes from World War II. After its fall, the Empire of Japan renounced control over many of its former possessions including Korea, Sakhalin Island, and Taiwan. In none of these areas were the opinions of affected people consulted, or given significant priority. Korea was specifically granted independence but the receiver of various other areas was not stated in the Treaty of San Francisco, giving Taiwan ''de facto'' independence although its political status continues to be ambiguous.

The Cold War world

The UN Charter and resolutions

In 1941 Allies of World War II declared the Atlantic Charter and accepted the principle of self-determination. In January 1942 twenty-six states signed the Declaration by United Nations, which accepted those principles. The ratification of the Charter of the United Nations, United Nations Charter in 1945 at the end of World War II placed the right of self-determination into the framework of international law and diplomacy. * Chapter 1, Article 1, part 2 states that purpose of the UN Charter is: "To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace." * Article 1 in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) reads: "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. " * The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 15 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. * Already in the 16th century the Spanish professor of law at the University of Salamanca wrote: "Toda nación tiene derecho a gobernarse a sí misma y puede aceptar el régimen político que quiera, aún cuando no sea el mejor. All nations have the right to govern themselves and can accept the political regime it wants, even if it is not the best." On 14 December 1960, the United Nations General Assembly adopted United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) subtitled "Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples", which supported the granting of
independence upright=1.0, Pedro I of Brazil, Pedro surrounded by a crowd in São Paulo after breaking the news of Independence of Brazil, Brazil's independence on September 7, 1822. Independence is a condition of a person, nation, country, or Sovereign state ...
to Colonialism, colonial countries and people by providing an inevitable legal linkage between self-determination and its goal of decolonisation. It postulated a new international law-based right of Liberty, freedom to exercise economic self-determination. Article 5 states: Immediate steps shall be taken in United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories, or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the people of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom. On 15 December 1960 the United Nations General Assembly adopted United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV), subtitled "Principles which should guide members in determining whether or nor an obligation exists to transmit the information called for under Chapter XI of the United Nations Charter, Article 73e of the United Nations Charter in Article 3", which provided that "[t]he inadequacy of political, economic, social and educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying the right to self-determination and independence." To monitor the implementation of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV), Resolution 1514, in 1961 the General Assembly created the Special Committee referred to popularly as the Special Committee on Decolonization to ensure decolonization complete compliance with the principles of self-determination in General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV). However, the charter and other resolutions did not insist on full independence as the best way of obtaining self-government, nor did they include an enforcement mechanism. Moreover, new states were recognized by the legal doctrine of uti possidetis juris, meaning that old administrative boundaries would become international boundaries upon independence if they had little relevance to linguistic, ethnic, and cultural boundaries.Paul R. Hensel and Michael E. Allison, Department of Political Science Florida State University and Ahmed Khanani, Department of Political Science, Indiana University
The Colonial Legacy and Border Stability: Uti Possidetis and Territorial Claims in the Americas
, research paper at Paul Hensel's Florida State university web site.
Vita Gudeleviciute
Does the Principle of Self-determination Prevail over the Principle of Territorial Integrity?
''International Journal of Baltic Law'', Vytautas Magnus University School of Law, Volume 2, No. 2 (April 2005).
Nevertheless, justified by the language of self-determination, between 1946 and 1960, thirty-seven new nations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East gained independence from colonial powers. The territoriality issue inevitably would lead to more conflicts and independence movements within many states and challenges to the assumption that territorial integrity is as important as self-determination.

The communist versus capitalist worlds

Decolonization in the world was contrasted by the Soviet Union's successful post-war expansionism. People's Republic of Tuva, Tuva and several regional states in Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, Baltic, and Soviet Central Asia, Central Asia had been fully annexed by the Soviet Union during World War II. Now, it extended its influence by establishing the satellite states of East Germany, Eastern Germany and the countries of Eastern Bloc, Eastern Europe, along with support for revolutionary movements in China and North Korea. Although satellite states were independent and possessed sovereignty, the Soviet Union violated principles of self-determination by suppressing the Hungarian revolution of 1956 and the Prague Spring Czechoslovak reforms of 1968. It Soviet–Afghan War, invaded Afghanistan to support a communist government assailed by local tribal groups. However, Marxism–Leninism and its theory of imperialism were also strong influences in the national emancipation movements of Third World nations rebelling against colonial or puppet regimes. In many Third World countries, communism became an ideology that united groups to oppose imperialism or colonization. Soviet actions were Containment, contained by the United States which saw communism as a menace to its interests. Throughout the cold war, the United States created, supported, and sponsored regimes with various success that served their economic and political interests, among them anti-communist regimes such as that of Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Suharto in Indonesia. To achieve this, a variety of means was implemented, including the orchestration of coups, sponsoring of anti-communist countries and military interventions. Consequently, many self-determination movements, which spurned some type of anti-communist government, were accused of being Soviet-inspired or controlled.


In Asia, the Soviet Union had already converted Mongolia into a satellite state but abandoned propping up the Second East Turkestan Republic and gave up its Soviet invasion of Manchuria, Manchurian claims to China. The new People's Republic of China had gained control of mainland China in the Chinese Civil War. The Korean War shifted the focus of the Cold War from Europe to Asia, where competing superpowers took advantage of decolonization to spread their influence. In 1947, India gained independence from the British Empire. The empire was in decline but adapted to these circumstances by creating the Commonwealth of Nations, British Commonwealth—since 1949 the Commonwealth of Nations—which is a free association of equal states. As India obtained its independence, multiple ethnic conflicts emerged in relation to the formation of a statehood during the Partition of India which resulted in Islamic Pakistan and Secular India. Before the British Raj, advent of the British, no empire based in mainland India had controlled any part of what now makes up the country's Northeast, part of the reason for the ongoing insurgency in Northeast India. In 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, Bangladesh obtained independence from Pakistan. Myanmar, Burma also gained independence from the British Empire, but declined membership in the Commonwealth. Indonesia gained independence from the Dutch Empire in 1949 after the latter failed to restore colonial control. As mentioned above, Indonesia also wanted a powerful position in the region that could be lessened by the creation of united Malaysia. The Netherlands retained Netherlands New Guinea, its New Guinea part from the previous Dutch East Indies, but Indonesia threatened to invade and annex it. A vote was supposedly taken under the UN sponsored Act of Free Choice to allow West New Guineans to decide their fate, although many dispute its veracity. Later, Portuguese Empire, Portugal relinquished control over East Timor in 1975, at which time Indonesian invasion of East Timor, Indonesia promptly invaded and annexed it.

After the Cold War

The Cold War began to wind down after Mikhail Gorbachev assumed power as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Soviet General Secretary in March 1985. With the cooperation of the U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Gorbachev wound down the size of the Soviet Armed Forces and reduced nuclear arms in Europe, while liberalizing the economy of the Soviet Union, Soviet economy. In the Revolutions of 1989, revolutions of 1989 – 90, the communist regimes of Soviet satellite states collapsed in rapid succession in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, and Mongolia. East and West Germany united, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into Czech Republic and Slovakia, while in 1990 Yugoslavia began a Yugoslavia#Breakup, violent break up into 6 states. Kosovo, which was previously an autonomous unit of Serbia declared independence in 2008, but has received less international recognition. In December 1991, Gorbachev resigned as president and the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Soviet Union dissolved relatively peacefully into Post-Soviet states, fifteen sovereign republics, all of which rejected Communism and most of which adopted democratic reforms and free-market economies. Inside those new republics, Commonwealth of Unrecognized States, four major areas have claimed their own independence, but not received widespread international recognition. After decades of civil war, Indonesia finally recognized the independence of East Timor in 2002. In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party, Communist Party won the Chinese Civil War and established the People's Republic of China in Mainland China. The Kuomintang-led Republic of China government retreated to Taipei, its jurisdiction now limited to Taiwan and several outlying islands. Since then, the People's Republic of China has been involved in disputes with the ROC over issues of sovereignty and the political status of Taiwan. As noted, self-determination movements remain List of active autonomist and secessionist movements, strong in some areas of the world. Some areas possess ''de facto'' independence, such as Taiwan, North Cyprus, Kosovo, and South Ossetia, but their independence is disputed by one or more major states. Significant movements for self-determination also persist for locations that lack ''de facto'' independence, such as Kurdistan, Balochistan, Chechnya, and the State of Palestine

Current issues

Since the early 1990s, the legitimatization of the principle of national self-determination has led to an increase in the number of conflicts within states, as sub-groups seek greater self-determination and full secession, and as their conflicts for leadership within groups and with other groups and with the dominant state become violent. The international reaction to these new movements has been uneven and often dictated more by politics than principle. The 2000 United Nations Millennium Declaration failed to deal with these new demands, mentioning only "the right to self-determination of peoples which remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation." In an issue of ''Macquarie University Law Journal'' Associate Professor Aleksandar Pavkovic and Senior Lecturer Peter Radan outlined current legal and political issues in self-determination. These include:

Defining "peoples"

There is not yet a recognized legal definition of "peoples" in international law. Vita Gudeleviciute of Vytautas Magnus University Law School, reviewing international law and UN resolutions, finds in cases of non-self-governing peoples (colonized and/or indigenous) and foreign military occupation "a people" is the entire population of the occupied territorial unit, no matter their other differences. In cases where people lack representation by a state's government, the unrepresented become a separate people. Present international law does not recognize ethnic and other minorities as separate peoples, with the notable exception of cases in which such groups are systematically disenfranchised by the government of the state they live in. Other definitions offered are "peoples" being self-evident (from ethnicity, language, history, etc.), or defined by "ties of mutual affection or sentiment", i.e. "loyalty", or by mutual obligations among peoples. Or the definition may be simply that a people is a group of individuals who unanimously choose a separate state. If the "people" are unanimous in their desire for self-determination, it strengthens their claim. For example, the populations of federal units of the Yugoslav federation were considered a people in the breakup of Yugoslavia, although some of those units had very diverse populations. Although there is no fully accepted definition of peoples, references are often made to a definition proposed by UN Special Rapporteur Martínez Cobo in his study on discrimination against indigenous populations. UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a democratic and equitable International Order, Alfred de Zayas, relied on the "Kirby definition" in his 2014 Report to the General Assembly A/69/272 as "a group of persons with a common historical tradition, racial or ethnic identity, cultural homogeneity, linguistic unity, religious or ideological affinity, territorial connection, or common economic life. To this should be added a subjective element: the will to be identified as a people and the consciousness of being a people." Abulof suggests that self-determination entails the "moral double helix" of duality (personal right to align with a people, and the people's right to determine their politics) and mutuality (the right is as much the other's as the self's). Thus, self-determination grants individuals the right to form "a people," which then has the right to establish an independent state, as long as they grant the same to all other individuals and peoples. Criteria for the definition of "people having the right of self-determination" was proposed during 2010 Kosovo case decision of the International Court of Justice: 1. traditions and culture 2. ethnicity 3. historical ties and heritage 4. language 5. religion 6. sense of identity or kinship 7. the will to constitute a people 8. common suffering.

Self-determination versus territorial integrity

National self-determination appears to challenge the principle of territorial integrity (or
sovereignty Sovereignty is the supreme authority within a territory. In any state, sovereignty is assigned to the person, body, or institution that has the ultimate authority over other people in order to establish a law or change an existing law. In polit ...
) of states as it is the will of the people that makes a state legitimate. This implies a people should be free to choose their own state and its territorial boundaries. However, there are far more self-identified nations than there are existing states and there is no legal process to redraw state boundaries according to the will of these peoples. According to the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, the UN, ICJ and international law experts, there is no contradiction between the principles of self-determination and territorial integrity, with the latter taking precedence. Allen Buchanan, author of seven books on self-determination and secession, supports territorial integrity as a moral and legal aspect of constitutional democracy. However, he also advances a "Remedial Rights Only Theory" where a group has "a general right to secede if and only if it has suffered certain injustices, for which secession is the appropriate remedy of last resort." He also would recognize secession if the state grants, or the constitution includes, a right to secede. Vita Gudeleviciute holds that in cases of non-self-governing peoples and foreign military occupation the principle of self-determination trumps that of territorial integrity. In cases where people lack representation by a state's government, they also may be considered a separate people, but under current law cannot claim the right to self-determination. On the other hand, she finds that secession within a single state is a domestic matter not covered by international law. Thus there are no on what groups may constitute a seceding people. A number of states have laid claim to territories, which they allege were removed from them as a result of colonialism. This is justified by reference to Paragraph 6 of UN Resolution 1514(XV), which states that any attempt "aimed at partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter". This, it is claimed, applies to situations where the territorial integrity of a state had been disrupted by colonisation, so that the people of a territory subject to a historic territorial claim are prevented from exercising a right to self-determination. This interpretation is rejected by many states, who argue that Paragraph 2 of UN Resolution 1514(XV) states that "all peoples have the right to self-determination" and Paragraph 6 cannot be used to justify territorial claims. The original purpose of Paragraph 6 was "to ensure that acts of self-determination occur within the established boundaries of colonies, rather than within sub-regions". Further, the use of the word ''attempt'' in Paragraph 6 denotes future action and cannot be construed to justify territorial redress for past action. An attempt sponsored by Spain and Argentina to qualify the right to self-determination in cases where there was a territorial dispute was rejected by the UN General Assembly, which re-iterated the right to self-determination was a universal right.

Methods of increasing minority rights

In order to accommodate demands for minority rights and avoid secession and the creation of a separate new state, many states decentralization, decentralize or devolution, devolve greater decision-making power to new or existing subunits or autonomous areas.

Self-determination versus majority rule/equal rights

Constitutional law

Most sovereign states do not recognize the right to self-determination through secession in their constitutions. Many expressly forbid it. However, there are several existing models of self-determination through greater autonomy and through secession.Andrei Kreptul
The Constitutional Right of Secession in Political Theory and History
Journal of Libertarian Studies, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Volume 17, no. 4 (Fall 2003), pp. 39 – 100.
In liberal constitutional democracies the principle of majority rule has dictated whether a minority can secede. In the United States Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that secession might be possible through List of amendments to the United States Constitution, amending the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States, Supreme Court in ''Texas v. White'' held secession could occur "through revolution, or through consent of the States." The Parliament of the United Kingdom, British Parliament in 1933 held that Western Australia only could secede from Australia upon vote of a majority of the country as a whole; the previous two-thirds majority vote for secession via referendum in Western Australia was insufficient. The Communist Party of China, Chinese Communist Party followed the Soviet Union in including the right of secession in its 1931 constitution in order to entice ethnic nationalities and Tibet into joining. However, the Party eliminated the right to secession in later years, and had anti-secession clause written into the Constitution before and after the founding the People's Republic of China. The 1947 Constitution of the Burma, Union of Burma contained an express state right to secede from the union under a number of procedural conditions. It was eliminated in the 1974 constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (officially the "Union of Myanmar"). Burma still allows "local autonomy under central leadership". As of 1996 the Constitution of Austria, constitutions of Austria, Constitutions of Ethiopia, Ethiopia, Constitution of France, France, and Constitution of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Kitts and Nevis have express or implied rights to secession. Switzerland allows for the secession from current and the creation of new Cantons of Switzerland, cantons. In the case of proposed Quebec separation from Canada the Supreme Court of Canada in 1998 ruled that only both a clear majority of the province and a constitutional amendment confirmed by all participants in the Canadian federation could allow secession. The 2003 draft of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, European Union Constitution allowed for the voluntary withdrawal of member states from the union, although the State which wanted to leave could not be involved in the vote deciding whether or not they can leave the Union. There was much discussion about such self-determination by minorities before the final document underwent the unsuccessful ratification process in 2005. As a result of the successful 2003 Liechtenstein constitutional referendum, constitutional referendum held in 2003, every municipality in the Liechtenstein, Principality of Liechtenstein has the right to secede from the Principality by a vote of a majority of the citizens residing in this municipality.

Drawing new borders

In determining international borders between sovereign states, self-determination has yielded to a number of other principles.Sebastian Anstis
The Normative Bases of the Global Territorial Order
Diplomacy & Statecraft, Volume 21, no. 2 (June 2010), pp. 306 – 323.
Once groups exercise self-determination through secession, the issue of the proposed borders may prove more controversial than the fact of secession. The bloody Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s were related mostly to border issues because the international community applied a version of uti possidetis juris in transforming the existing internal borders of the various Yugoslav republics into international borders, despite the conflicts of ethnic groups within those boundaries. In the 1990s indigenous populations of the northern two-thirds of Quebec province opposed being incorporated into a Quebec nation and stated a determination to resist it by force. The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State was based on the borders of existing counties and did not include all of historic Ulster. A Irish Boundary Commission, Boundary Commission was established to consider re-drawing it. Its proposals, which amounted to a small net transfer to Northern Ireland, were leaked to the press and then not acted upon. In December 1925, the governments of the Irish Free State, Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom agreed to accept the existing border.

Notable cases

There have been a number of notable cases of self-determination. For more information on past movements see list of historical separatist movements and Decolonization#Timeline of independence, lists of decolonized nations. Also see list of autonomous areas by country and lists of active separatist movements.


The Republic of Artsakh (formerly known as the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh), in the Caucasus region, declared its independence basing on self-determination rights on 2 September 1991. It successfully defended its independence in a subsequent First Nagorno-Karabakh War, war with Azerbaijan, but remains largely unrecognized by UN states today. It is a member of the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations along with three other Post-Soviet disputed republics.


Self-determination has become the topic of some debate in Australia in relation to Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. In the 1970s, Aboriginal requested the right to administer their own remote communities as part of the homelands movement, also known as the outstation movement. These grew in number through the 1980s, but funding dried up in the 2000s.


The traditional homeland of the Tuareg people, Tuareg peoples was divided up by the modern borders of Mali, Algeria and Niger. Numerous rebellions occurred over the decades, but in 2012 the Tuaregs succeeded in occupying their land and declaring the independence of Azawad. However, their movement was hijacked by the Islamist terrorist group Ansar Dine.

Basque Country

The Basque Country ( eu, Euskal Herria, es, País Vasco, french: Pays Basque) as a cultural region (not to be confused with the homonym Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (autonomous community), Basque country) is a European region in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain, on the Atlantic coast. It comprises the autonomous communities of the Basque Country and Navarre in Spain and the Northern Basque Country in France. Since the 19th century, Basque nationalism has demanded the right of some kind of self-determination. This desire for independence is particularly stressed among left-wing politics, leftist Basque nationalists. The right of self-determination was asserted by the Basque Parliament in 1990, 2002 and 2006. Since self-determination is not recognized in the Spanish Constitution of 1978, some Basques abstained and some voted against it in the referendum of December 6 of that year. It was approved by a clear majority at the Spanish level, and with 74.6% of the votes in the Basque Country. However, the overall turnout in the Basque Country was 45% when the Spanish overall turnover was 67.9%. The derived autonomous regime for the BAC was approved by Spanish Parliament and also by the Basque citizens in referendum. The autonomous statue of Navarre (''Amejoramiento del Fuero'': "improvement of the charter") was approved by the Spanish Parliament and, like the statues of 13 out of 17 Spanish autonomous communities, it did not need a referendum to enter into force. ''Euskadi Ta Askatasuna'' or ETA ( en, Basque Homeland and Freedom; pronounced ), was an armed Basque nationalist, separatist and terrorist organization that killed more than 800 people. Founded in 1959, it evolved from a group advocating traditional cultural ways to a paramilitary group with the goal of Basque independence. Its ideology was Marxist–Leninist.


The Nigerian Civil War was fought between Biafran secessionists of the Biafra, Republic of Biafra and the Federal government of Nigeria, Nigerian central government. From 1999 to the present day, the indigenous people of Biafra have been agitating for independence to revive their country. They have registered a human rights organization known as Bilie Human Rights Initiative both in Nigeria and in the United Nations to advocate for their right to self-determination and achieve independence by the rule of law.


After the 2012 Catalan march for independence, in which between 600,000 and 1.5 million citizens marched, the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, President of Catalonia, Artur Mas, called for new 2012 Catalonian parliamentary election, parliamentary elections on 25 November 2012 to elect a new Parliament of Catalonia, parliament that would exercise the right of self-determination for Catalonia, a right not recognised under the Cortes Generales, Spanish Cortes Generales. The Parliament of Catalonia voted to hold a vote in the next four-year legislature on the question of self-determination. The parliamentary decision was approved by a large majority of MPs: 84 voted for, 21 voted against, and 25 abstained. The Catalan Parliament applied to the Spanish Parliament for the power to call a referendum to be devolved, but this was turned down. In December 2013 the President of the Generalitat Artur Mas and the governing coalition agreed to set the referendum for self-determination on 9 November 2014, and legislation specifically saying that the consultation would not be a "referendum" was enacted, only to be blocked by the Constitutional Court of Spain, Spanish Constitutional Court, at the request of the Spanish government. Given the block, the Government turned it into a simple "consultation to the people" instead. The question in the consultation was "Do you want Catalonia to be a State?" and, if the answer to this question was yes, "Do you want this State to be an independent State?". However, as the consultation was not a formal referendum, these (printed) answers were just suggestions and other answers were also accepted and catalogued as "other answers" instead as null votes. The turnout in this consultation was about 2·3m people out of 6·2m people that were called to vote (this figure does not coincide with the census figure of 5·3m for two main reasons: first, because organisers had no access to an official census due to the non-binding character of the consultation, and second, because the legal voting age was set to 16 rather than 18). Due to the lack of an official census, potential voters were assigned to electoral tables according to home address and first family name. Participants had to sign up first with their full name and national ID in a voter registry before casting their ballot, which prevented participants from potentially casting multiple ballots. The overall result was 80·76% in favor of both questions, 11% in favor of the first question but not of the second questions, 4·54% against both; the rest were classified as "other answers". The voter turnout was around 37% (most people against the consultation did not go to vote). Four top members of Catalonia's political leadership were barred from public office for having defied the Constitutional court's last-minute ban. Almost three years later (1 October 2017), the Catalan government called a 2017 Catalan independence referendum, referendum for independence under legislation adopted in September 2017, despite this legislation had had been suspended by the Constitutional Court for "violating fundamental rights of citizens", with the question "Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a Republic?". On polling day, the Catalan regional police, which had been accused in the past of police brutality and impunity during the 15-M protests, prevented voting in over 500 polling stations without incidents. In some voting stations, the Catalan regional police did not intervene, while in other stations they directly confronted the Spanish CNP (National Police Corps) to allow voters to participate. The CNP confiscated ballot boxes and closed down 92, voting centres with violent truncheon charges. The opposition parties had called for non-participation. The turnout (according to the votes that were counted) was 2.3m out of 5.3m (43.03% of the census), and 90.18% of the ballots were in favour of independence. The turnout, ballot count and results were similar to those of the 2014 "consultation".


Under Dzhokhar Dudayev, Chechnya declared independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, using self-determination, Russia's history of bad treatment of Chechens, and a history of independence before invasion by Russia as main motives. Russia has restored control over Chechnya, but the separatist government functions still in exile, though it has been split into two entities: the Akhmed Zakayev-run secular Chechen Republic (based in Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States), and the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.

Eastern Ukraine

There is an active secessionist movement based on the self-determination of the residents of the Donetsk Oblast, Donetsk and Luhansk Oblast, Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, allegedly against the illegitimacy and corruption of the Ukrainian government. However, many in the international community assert that 2014 Donbass status referendums, referendums held there in 2014 regarding independence from Ukraine were illegitimate and undemocratic. Similarly, there are reports that 2014 Ukrainian presidential election, presidential elections in May 2014 were prevented from taking place in the two regions after armed gunmen took control of polling stations, kidnapped election officials, and stole lists of electors, thus denying the population the chance to express their will in a free, fair, and internationally recognised election. There are also arguments that the de facto separation of Eastern Ukraine from the rest of the country is not an expression of self-determination, but rather a manipulation through Neo-Sovietism, pro-Soviet sentiment revival and an invasion by neighbouring Russia, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claiming in 2015 that up to 9,000 Russian Ground Forces, Russian soldiers were deployed in Ukraine.

Falkland Islands

Self-determination is referred to in the Falkland Islands Constitution and is a factor in the Falkland Islands sovereignty dispute. The population has existed for over nine generations, continuously for over 185 years. In the 2013 Falkland Islands sovereignty referendum, 2013 referendum organised by the Falkland Islands Government, 99.8% voted to remain British. As administering power, the Government of the United Kingdom, British Government considers since the majority of inhabitants wish to remain British, transfer of sovereignty to Argentina would be counter to their right to self-determination. Argentina states the principle of self-determination is not applicable since the current inhabitants are not aboriginal and were brought to replace the Argentine population, which was expelled by an 'act of force', forcing the Argentinian inhabitants to directly leave the islands. This refers to the Reassertion of British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (1833), re-establishment of British rule in the year 1833 during which Argentina claims the existing population living in the islands was expelled. Argentina thus argues that, in the case of the Falkland Islands, the principle of territorial integrity #Self-determination versus territorial integrity, should have precedence over self-determination. Historical records dispute Argentina's claims and whilst acknowledging the garrison was expelled note the existing civilian population remained at Port Louis, Falkland Islands, Port Louis and there was no attempt to settle the islands until 1841.


The right to self-determination is referred to in the pre-amble of Chapter 1 of the Gibraltar Constitution Order 2006, Gibraltar constitution, and, since the United Kingdom also gave assurances that the right to self-determination of Gibraltarians would be respected in any transfer of sovereignty over the territory, is a factor in the dispute with Spain over the territory. The impact of the right to self-determination of Gibraltarians was seen in the 2002 Gibraltar sovereignty referendum, where Gibraltarian voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to share sovereignty over Gibraltar between the UK and Spain. However, the UK government differs with the Gibraltarian government in that it considers Gibraltarian self-determination to be limited by the Treaty of Utrecht, which prevents Gibraltar achieving independence without the agreement of Spain, a position that the Gibraltarian government does not accept. The Spanish government denies that Gibraltarians have the right to self-determination, considering them to be "an artificial population without any genuine autonomy" and not "indigenous". However, the Partido Andalucista has agreed to recognise the right to self-determination of Gibraltarians.

Hong Kong

Before the United Nations's adoption of resolution 2908 (XXVII) on 2 November 1972, The People's Republic of China vetoed the former British colony of Hong Kong's right to self-determination on 8 March 1972. This sparked several nations' protest along with Great Britain's declaration on 14 December that the decision is invalid. Decades later, an independence movement, dubbed as the Hong Kong independence movement emerged in the now Communist Chinese controlled territory. It advocates the autonomous region to become a fully independent sovereign state. The city is considered a Special administrative regions of China, special administrative region (SAR) which, according to the PRC, enjoys a high degree of autonomy under the People's Republic of China (PRC), guaranteed under Article 2 of Hong Kong Basic LawHong Kong independence#cite note-1, [1] (which is ratified under the Sino-British Joint Declaration), since the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the PRC in 1997. Since the handover, many Hongkongers are increasingly concerned about Beijing's growing encroachment on the territory's freedoms and the failure of the Hong Kong government to deliver 'true' democracy.Hong Kong independence#cite note-rally-2, [2] The 2014–15 Hong Kong electoral reform package deeply divided the city, as it allowed Hongkongers to have universal suffrage, but Beijing would have authority to screen the candidates to restrict the electoral method for the Chief Executive of Hong Kong (CE), the highest-ranking official of the territory. This sparked the 79-day massive peaceful protests which was dubbed as the "Umbrella Revolution" and the pro-independence movement emerged on the Hong Kong political scene.Hong Kong independence#cite note-rally-2, [2] Since then, Localism in Hong Kong, localism has gained momentum, particularly after the failure of the peaceful Umbrella Movement. Young localist leaders have led numerous protest actions against pro-Chinese policies to raise awareness of social problems of Hong Kong under Chinese rule. These include the sit-in protest against the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014, Bill to Strengthen Internet Censorship, demonstrations against University of Hong Kong pro-vice-chancellor selection controversy, Chinese political interference in the University of Hong Kong, the 2015 Yuen Long protest, Recover Yuen Long protests and the 2016 Mong Kok civil unrest. According to a survey conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in July 2016, 17.4% of respondents supported the city becoming an independent entity after 2047, while 3.6% stated that it is "possible".Hong Kong independence#cite note-3, [3]

Indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples have claimed through the 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples the term peoples, and gaining with it the right to self-determination. Though it was also established that it is merely a right within existing sovereign states, afterall peoples also need territory and a central government to reach
sovereignty Sovereignty is the supreme authority within a territory. In any state, sovereignty is assigned to the person, body, or institution that has the ultimate authority over other people in order to establish a law or change an existing law. In polit ...
in international politics.


The Jews, Jewish people have had ties to the land of Israel or Palestine (region), Palestine ever since the fall of Judea (Roman province), Judea and the expulsion of Jews into the diaspora. It was only with the founding of modern Zionism by Theodor Herzl in his 1896 pamphlet Der Judenstaat that the State of Israel was able to establish its independence in 1948.


Ever since Pakistan and India's inception in 1947 the legal state of Jammu and Kashmir (princely state), Jammu and Kashmir, the land between India and Pakistan, has been contested as Britain was resigning from their rule over this land. Hari Singh, Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir at the time of accession, signed the Instrument of Accession Act on October 26, 1947 as his territory was being attacked by Pakistani tribesmen. The passing of this Act allowed Jammu and Kashmir (state), Jammu and Kashmir to accede to India on legal terms. When this Act was taken to Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British Raj, British India, he agreed to it and stated that a referendum needed to be held by the citizens in India, Pakistan, and Kashmir so that they could vote as to where Kashmir should accede to. This referendum that Mountbatten called for never took place and framed one of the legal disputes for Kashmir. In 1948 the United Nations intervened and ordered a plebiscite to be taken in order to hear the voices of the Kashmiris if they would like to accede to Pakistan or India. This plebiscite left out the right for Kashmiris to have the right of self-determination and become an autonomous state. To this date the Kashmiris have been faced with numerous human rights violations committed by both India and Pakistan and have yet to gain complete autonomy which they have been seeking through self-determination. The Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, insurgency in Kashmir against Indian rule has existed in various forms. A widespread armed insurgency started in Kashmir against India rule in 1989 after allegations of rigging by the Indian government in the 1987 Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly election, 1987 Jammu and Kashmir state election. This led to some parties in the state assembly forming militant wings, which acted as a catalyst for the emergence of armed insurgency in the region. The conflict over Kashmir has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. The Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan has been accused by India of supporting and training both pro-Pakistan and pro-independence militants to fight Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, a charge that Pakistan denies. According to official figures released in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, there were 3,400 disappearance cases and the conflict has left more than 47,000 to 100,000 people dead as of July 2009. However, violence in the state had fallen sharply after the start of a slow-moving peace process between India and Pakistan. After the peace process failed in 2008, mass demonstrations against Indian rule, and also low-scale militancy have emerged again. However, despite boycott calls by separatist leaders in 2014, the 2014 Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly election, Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections saw highest voters turnout in last 25 years since insurgency erupted. As per the Indian government, it recorded more than 65% of voters turnout which was more than usual voters turnout in other state assembly elections of India. It considered as increase in faith of Kashmiri people in democratic process of India. However, activists say that the voter turnout is highly exaggerated and that elections are held under duress. Votes are cast because the people want stable governance of the state and this cannot be mistaken as an endorsement of Indian rule.


Kurdistan is a historical region primarily inhabited by the Kurdish people of the Middle East. The territory is currently part of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. There are Kurdish self-determination movements in each of the 4 states. Iraqi Kurdistan has to date achieved the largest degree of self-determination through the formation of the Kurdistan Regional Government, an entity recognised by the Constitution of Iraq, Iraqi Federal Constitution. Although the right of the creation of a Kurdish state was recognized following World War I in the Treaty of Sèvres, the treaty was then annulled by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). To date two separate Kurdish republics and one Kurdish Kingdom have declared sovereignty. The Republic of Ararat (Ağrı Province, Turkey), the Republic of Mehabad (West Azerbaijan Province, Iran) and the Kingdom of Kurdistan (Sulaymaniyah Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq), each of these fledgling states was crushed by military intervention. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan which currently holds the President of Iraq, Iraqi presidency and the Kurdistan Democratic Party which governs the Kurdistan Regional Government both explicitly commit themselves to the development of Kurdish self-determination, but opinions vary as to the question of self-determination sought within the current borders and countries. Efforts towards Kurdish self-determination are considered illegal separatism by the governments of Turkey and Iran, and the movement is politically repressed in both states. This is intertwined with Kurdish nationalist insurgencies Kurdish separatism in Iran, in Iran and Kurdish–Turkish conflict (1978–present), in Turkey, which in turn justify and are justified by the repression of peaceful advocacy. In Syria, a self-governing Rojava, local Kurdish-dominated polity was established in 2012, amongst the upheaval of the Syrian Civil War, but has not been recognized by any foreign state.


Naga people, Naga refers to a vaguely-defined conglomeration of distinct tribes living on the border of India and Burma. Each of these tribes lived in a sovereign village before the arrival of the British India, British, but developed a common identity as the area was Christianized. After the British left India, a section of Nagas under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo sought to establish a separate country for the Nagas. Phizo's group, the Naga National Council (NNC), claimed that 99. 9% of the Nagas wanted an independent Naga country according to a referendum conducted by it. It waged a secessionist insurgency against the Government of India. The NNC collapsed after Phizo got his dissenters killed or forced them to seek refuge with the Government. Phizo escaped to London, while NNC's successor secessionist groups continued to stage violent attacks against the Indian Government. The Naga People's Convention (NPC), another major Naga organization, was opposed to the secessionists. Its efforts led to the creation of a separate Nagaland state within India in 1963. The secessionist violence declined considerably after the Shillong Accord of 1975. However, three factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) continue to seek an independent country which would include parts of India and Burma. They envisage a sovereign, predominantly Christian nation called "Nagalim".

North Borneo and Sarawak

Another controversial episode with perhaps more relevance was the British beginning their exit from British Malaya. An experience concerned the findings of a ''United Nations Assessment Team'' that led the British territories of Crown Colony of North Borneo, North Borneo and Crown Colony of Sarawak, Sarawak in 1963 to determine whether or not the populations wished to become a part of the new Federation of Malaya, Malaysia Federation. The United Nation Team's mission followed on from an earlier assessment by the British-appointed Cobbold Commission which had arrived in the territories in 1962 and held hearings to determine public opinion. It also sifted through 1600 letters and memoranda submitted by individuals, organisations and political parties. Cobbold concluded that around two thirds of the population favoured to the formation of Malaysia while the remaining third wanted either independence or continuing control by the United Kingdom. The United Nations team largely confirmed these findings, which were later accepted by the General Assembly, and both territories subsequently wish to form the new Federation of Malaysia. The conclusions of both the Cobbold Commission and the United Nations team were arrived at without any referendums self-determination being held. 1962 Singaporean national referendum, Unlike in Singapore, however, no referendum was ever conducted in Crown Colony of Sarawak, Sarawak and Crown Colony of North Borneo, North Borneo. they sought to consolidate several of the previous ruled entities then there was Manila Accord, an agreement between the Philippines, Federation of Malaya and Indonesia on 31 July 1963 to abide by the wishes of the people of Crown Colony of North Borneo, North Borneo and Crown Colony of Sarawak, Sarawak within the context of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV), Principle 9 of the Annex taking into account referendums in North Borneo and Sarawak that would be free and without coercion. This also triggered the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation, Indonesian confrontation because Indonesia opposed the violation of the agreements.

Northern Cyprus

Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greece, Mycenaean Greeks in two waves in the 2nd millennium BC. As a strategic location in the Middle East, it was subsequently occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Assyria, Assyrians, Ancient Egypt, Egyptians and Achaemenid Empire, Persians, from whom the island was seized in 333 BC by Alexander the Great. Subsequent rule by Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemaic Egypt, the Roman Empire, Classical and Byzantine Empire, Eastern Roman Empire, Caliphate, Arab caliphates for a short period and the House of Lusignan, French Lusignan dynasty. Following the death in 1473 of James II of Cyprus, James II, the last Lusignan king, the Republic of Venice assumed control of the island, while the late king's Venetian widow, Queen Catherine Cornaro, reigned as figurehead. Venice formally annexed the Kingdom of Cyprus in 1489, following the abdication of Catherine. The Venetians fortified Nicosia by building the Walls of Nicosia, and used it as an important commercial hub. Although the Lusignan French aristocracy remained the dominant social class in Cyprus throughout the medieval period, the former assumption that Greeks were treated only as Serfdom, serfs on the island is no longer considered by academics to be accurate. It is now accepted that the medieval period saw increasing numbers of Greek Cypriots elevated to the upper classes, a growing Greek middle ranks, and the Lusignan royal household even marrying Greeks. This included King John II of Cyprus who married Helena Palaiologina. Throughout Venetian rule, the Ottoman Empire frequently raided Cyprus. In 1539 the Ottomans destroyed Limassol and so fearing the worst, the Venetians also fortified Famagusta and Kyrenia. Having invaded in 1570, Turkish Cypriots, Turks controlled and solely governed all of the Cyprus island from 1571 until its leasing to the British Empire in 1878. Cyprus was placed under British Cyprus, British administration based on Cyprus Convention in 1878 and formally annexed by Britain at the beginning of
World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously known as the Great War or "The war to end war, the war ...
in 1914. While Turkish Cypriots made up 18% of the population, the partition of Cyprus and creation of a Turkish state in the north became a policy of Turkish Cypriot leaders and the Turkey, Republic of Turkey in the 1950s. Politically, there was no majority/minority relation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots; and hence, in 1960, Cyprus, Republic of Cyprus was founded by the constituent communities in Cyprus (Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots) as a non-unitary state; the 1960 Constitution set both Turkish language, Turkish and Greek language, Greek as the official languages. During 1963–74, the island experienced ethnic clashes and turmoil, following the Greek nationalism, Greek nationalists' coup to unify the island to Greece, which led to the eventual Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Turkish invasion in 1974. Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was declared in 1983 and recognized only by Turkey. Monroe Leigh, 1990, The Legal Status in International Law of the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot Communities in Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot regimes participating in these negotiations, and the respective communities which they represent, are presently entitled to exercise equal rights under international law, including rights of self-determination. Before the Turkey's invasion in 1974, Turkish Cypriots were concentrated in Turkish Cypriot enclaves in the island. Northern Cyprus fulfills all the classical criteria of statehood. United Nations Peace Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) operates based on the laws of Northern Cyprus in north of Cyprus island. According to European Court of Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the laws of Northern Cyprus is valid in the north of Cyprus. ECtHR did ''not'' accept the claim that the Courts of Northern Cyprus lacked "independence and/or impartiality". ECtHR directed all Cypriots to exhaust "domestic remedies" applied by Northern Cyprus before taking their cases to ECtHR. In 2014, Federal judiciary of the United States, United States' Federal Court qualified Northern Cyprus, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as a "democratic country". In 2017, United Kingdom's High Court decided that "There was no duty in UK law upon the UK's Government to refrain from recognising Northern Cyprus. The United Nations itself works with Northern Cyprus law enforcement agencies and facilitates cooperation between the two parts of the island." UK's High Court of Justice, High Court also dismissed the claim that "cooperation between UK police and law agencies in northern Cyprus was illegal".


In Canada, many French Canadians, Francophone citizens in the Quebec, Province of Quebec have wanted the province to separate from Confederation. The Parti Québécois has asserted Quebec's "right to self-determination. " There is debate on under which conditions would this right be realized. French-speaking Quebec nationalism and support for maintaining Culture of Quebec, Québécois culture would inspire Quebec nationalism, Quebec nationalists, many of whom were supporters of the Quebec sovereignty movement during the late-20th century.


Kingdom of Scotland, Scotland ceased to exist as a sovereign state in 1707, as did Kingdom of England, England, when the Acts of Union 1707, Acts of Union (1707) created the unified Kingdom of Great Britain, but has a long-standing Scottish independence, separatist movement, with polls suggesting in January 2020 that 52% of eligible voters would vote for an independent Scotland. The region's largest political party, the Scottish National Party, campaigns for Scottish independence. A 2014 Scottish independence referendum, referendum on independence was held in 2014, where it was rejected by 55% of voters. The Independence debate continued throughout the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, UK referendum on EU membership where Scotland voted 62-38 (turnout 67%) to remain a member of the EU. Results in the rest of the UK, however, led to the whole of Great Britain leaving the EU. In late 2019 the Scottish Government announced plans to demand a second referendum on Scottish Independence. This was given assent by the Scottish Parliament but, as of February 2020, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to grant the powers required to hold another referendum on the grounds that both sides accepted beforehand that the 2014 vote would settle the matter for a generation.

South Africa

Section 235 of the Constitution of South Africa, South African Constitution allows for the right to self-determination of a community, within the framework of "the right of the South Africans, South African people as a whole to self-determination", and pursuant to national legislation. This section of the constitution was one of the negotiated settlements during the handing over of political power in 1994. Supporters of an independent Afrikaner homeland have argued that their goals are reasonable under this new legislation.

South Tyrol

In Italy, South Tyrol, South Tyrol/Alto Adige was Italianization of South Tyrol, annexed after the World War I, First World War. The German-speaking inhabitants of South Tyrol are protected by the Gruber–De Gasperi Agreement, Gruber-De Gasperi Agreement, but there are still supporters of the self determination of South Tyrol, e.g. the party Die Freiheitlichen and the South Tyrolean independence movement. At the end of WWII the Allies of World War II, Allies offered to separate South Tyrol from Italy, but the South Tyrolean People's Party refused, preferring to obtain huge fiscal and economic advantages from Rome.

Székely Land

Following the World War I, First World War, large areas of the Kingdom of Hungary, Kingdom of Hungary were Treaty of Trianon, annexed by Romania. Some of these areas were inhabited by an ethnic Hungarians, Hungarian population called Székelys, Székelys. Ever since their homes were integrated into Romania, these people were trying to achieve some form of autonomy or self-governance.

United States

The colonization of the North America, North American continent and its Native Americans in the United States, Native American population has been the source of legal battles since the early 19th century. Many Native American tribes were resettled onto separate tracts of land (Indian reservation, reservations), which have retained a certain degree of autonomy within the United States. The Federal government of the United States, federal government recognizes Tribal sovereignty in the United States, Tribal Sovereignty and has established a number of laws attempting to clarify the relationship among the federal, State governments of the United States, state, and tribal governments. The Constitution of the United States, Constitution and later federal laws recognize the local sovereignty of tribal nations, but do not recognize full sovereignty equivalent to that of foreign nations, hence the term "domestic dependent nations" to qualify the federally recognized tribes. Certain Chicano nationalism, Chicano nationalist groups seek to "recreate" an ethnic-based state to be called Aztlán, after the legendary homeland of the Aztecs. It would comprise the Southwestern United States, historic territory of Indigenous peoples of the Americas, indigenous peoples and their descendants, as well as colonists and later settlers under the Spanish Empire, Spanish colonial and Mexico, Mexican governments. Black nationalists have argued that, by virtue of slaves' unpaid labor and the harsh experiences of African Americans under Slavery in the United States, slavery and Jim Crow, African Americans have a moral claim to the areas where the highest percentage of the population classified as black lives. They believe this area should be the basis of forming an independent state of New Afrika, designed to have an African-American majority and political control. There are several active Hawaiian autonomy or independence movements, each with the goal of realizing some level of political control over single or several islands. The groups range from those seeking territorial units similar to Indian reservation, Indian reservations under the United States, with the least amount of independent control, to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, which is projected to have the most independence. The Hawaiian Sovereignty movement seeks to revive the Hawaiian nation under the Hawaiian constitution. Supporters of this concept say that Hawai
retained its sovereignty
while under control of the United States. Since 1972, the Special Committee on Decolonization, U.N. Decolonization Committee has called for Puerto Rico's "decolonization" and for the US to recognize the island's right to self-determination and independence. In 2007 the Decolonization Subcommittee called for the United Nations General Assembly to review the political status of Puerto Rico, a power reserved by the 1953 Resolution. This followed the 1967 passage of a plebiscite act that provided for a vote on the status of Puerto Rico with three status options: continued Commonwealth (U.S. insular area), commonwealth, Statehood movement in Puerto Rico, statehood, and Independence movement in Puerto Rico, independence. In the first plebscite, the commonwealth option won with 60.4% of the votes, but US congressional committees failed to enact legislation to address the status issue. In subsequent plebiscites in 1993 and 1998, the status quo was favored. In a 2012 Puerto Rican status referendum, referendum that took place in November 2012, a majority of Puerto Rican residents voted to change the territory's relationship with the United States, with the statehood option being the preferred option. But a large number of ballots—one-third of all votes cast—were left blank on the question of preferred alternative status. Supporters of the commonwealth status had urged voters to blank their ballots. When the blank votes are counted as anti-statehood votes, the statehood option would have received less than 50% of all ballots received. As of January 2014, Washington has not taken action to address the results of this plebiscite. Many current US Secession in the United States, state, regional and city secession groups use the language of self-determination. A 2008 Zogby International poll revealed that 22% of Americans believe that "any state or region has the right to peaceably secede and become an independent republic."Alex Mayer
"Secession: still a popular idea?"
, ''St. Louis Post-Dispatch,'' July 25, 2008.
Since the late 20th century, some states periodically discuss desires to Secession in the United States, secede from the United States. Unilateral secession was ruled Constitutionality, unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in ''Texas v. White'' (1869).

West Papua

The self-determination of the West Papua (region), West Papuan people has been violently suppressed by the Indonesia, Indonesian government since the withdrawal of Dutch colonial rule under the Netherlands New Guinea in 1962.

Western Sahara

There is an active movement based on the self-determination of the Sahrawi people in the Western Sahara region. Morocco also claims the entire territory, and maintains control of about two-thirds of the region.

See also

*Anti-imperialism *Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations *Decolonization **Special Committee on Decolonization **United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories *Ethnic separatism *Identity politics *Indigenous peoples *:De:Informationelle Selbstbestimmung, Informational self-determination (German) *International relations theory *Legitimacy (political), Legitimacy **Legitimacy of Israel **International recognition of Israel *List of historical unrecognized states and dependencies *List of national liberation movements recognized by intergovernmental organizations *National delimitation in the Soviet Union *Nation-state *Non-Intervention *Religious nationalism *Right to exist *Consent of the governed *Popular sovereignty *Self-governance *Self-ownership *Stateless nation *Territorial integrity *Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization *Wars of national liberation



* Rudolf A. Mark, "National Self-Determination, as Understood by Lenin and the Bolsheviks." ''Lithuanian Historical Studies'' (2008), Vol. 13, p 21–39
* Abulof, Uriel and Cordell, Karl (eds.) (2015)
Special Issue: Self-determination—A Double-edged Principle
Ethnopolitics 14(5). * Danspeckgruber, Wolfgang F., ed. ''The Self-Determination of Peoples: Community, Nation, and State in an Interdependent World'', Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002. * Danspeckgruber, Wolfgang F., and Arthur Watts, eds. ''Self-Determination and Self-Administration: A Sourcebook'', Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1997. * Allen Buchanan, ''Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination: Moral Foundations for International Law (Oxford Political Theory)'', Oxford University Press, USA, 2007. * Annalisa Zinn, ''Globalization and Self-Determination (Kindle Edition)'', Taylor & Francis, 2007. * Marc Weller, ''Autonomy, Self Governance and Conflict Resolution (Kindle Edition)'', Taylor & Francis, 2007. * Valpy Fitzgerald, Frances Stewart, Rajesh Venugopal (Editors), ''Globalization, Violent Conflict and Self-Determination'', Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. * Joanne Barker (Editor), ''Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination'', University of Nebraska Press, 2005. * David Raic, ''Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination (Developments in International Law, V. 43) (Developments in International Law, V. 43)'', Springer Science+Business Media, Springer, 2002. * Y.N. Kly and D. Kly, ''In pursuit of The Right to Self-determination'', Collected Papers & Proceedings of the First International Conference on the Right to Self-Determination & the United Nations, Geneva 2000, Clarity Press, 2001. * Antonio Cassese, ''Self-Determination of Peoples: A Legal Reappraisal (Hersch Lauterpacht Memorial Lectures)'', Cambridge University Press, 1999. * Percy Lehning, ''Theories of Secession'', Routledge, 1998. * Hurst Hannum, ''Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights'', University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996. * Temesgen Muleta-Erena, ''The political and Cultural Locations of National Self-determination: The Oromia Case'', Oromia Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 2, 1999. .

External links

* Thürer, Daniel, Burri, Thomas
''Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law''
The Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination, Princeton University

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514(XV). "Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples"

United Nations Charter

* [https://web.archive.org/web/20080513194128/http://selfdetermine.irc-online.org/index.html Self Determination in Focus], Foreign Policy In Focus self-determination papers site. * Andrei Kreptul
The Constitutional Right of Secession in Political Theory and History
Journal of Libertarian Studies, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Volume 17, no. 4 (Fall 2003), pp.  39 – 100. * Jacob T. Levy
Self-Determination, Non-Domination, and Federalism
published in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy.
"Winds of Change or Hot Air? Decolonization, Self-determination and the Salt Water Test, "
Legal Frontiers International Law Blog

Vladimir Lenin Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. ( 1870 – 21 January 1924), better known by his alias Lenin,. was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as the first and founding Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of th ...

Vladimir Lenin
February – May 1914.
Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination
Unofficial page for London-based Parliamentary lobby group.
Self Determination - International Law and Practise
collated and sequenced by Nadesan Satyendra.
The Center for World Indigenous Studies

Post-2011 scenarios in Sudan: What role for the EU?
edited by Damien Helly, Report No. 6, November 2009, European Union Institute for Security Studies
self determination for Puerto Rico and all Latin American nations
{{DEFAULTSORT:Self-Determination Political theories International law Nationalism Secession Independence movements Collective rights Communist terminology Maoism Autonomy Human rights by issue Sovereignty Decentralization Decolonisation