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Self-determination is the free choice of one’s own acts without external compulsion; and especially as the freedom of the people of a given territory to determine their own political status. It can also be defined as the ability or power to make decisions for yourself, especially the power of a nation to decide how it will be governed. In other words, it is the right of the people of a nation to decide how they want to be governed without the influence of any other country. The latter is a complex concept with conflicting definitions and legal criteria for determining which groups may legitimately claim the right to self-determination. This often coincides with various nationalist movements.


Pre-20th century

Just as colonisation and colonialism have been practiced throughout recorded history, political self-determination, on an individual level, has been documented similarly and cherished highly by collective peoples despite them; ancient Mesopotamia and the later Greek city-states are early examples of its practice.

The revolt of New World British colonists in North America, during the mid-1770s, 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 of man, as well as the consent of, and sovereignty by, the people governed; these ideas were inspired particularly by John Locke’s 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 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 1800s, most of the nations of South America achieved independence from Spain. The United States supported that status, as policy in the hemisphere relative to European colonialism, with the Monroe Doctrine. The American public, organized associated groups, and even Congressional resolutions, often supported such movements, particularly the Greek War of Independence (1821-29) and the 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 Statesmarker government did not accept self-determination as a basis during its Purchase of Alaska and attempted purchase of the West Indian islands of Saint Thomasmarker and Saint Johnmarker in 1860s, or its growing influence in the Hawaiian Islandsmarker, that led to 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 Guammarker, Puerto Rico and the Philippinesmarker, without the consent of their peoples, and it retained “quasi-suzerainty” over Cuba, as well.

During the early 1800s, the British Empire became dominant and entered its "imperial century". Following the conflict the "New Imperialism" was unleashed with France and later Germany establishing colonies during the "Scramble for Africa." The Ottoman Empire, Russian Empiremarker and Empire of Japanmarker also maintained or expanded themselves. All ignored any notion of self-determination for those governed. Meanwhile in Europe itself there was a rise of nationalism, with nations such as Greece, Hungary, Poland and 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 Vladmir 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 War I and II

Woodrow Wilson revived the American commitment to self-determination, at least for European states, during World War I. When the Bolsheviks came to power in Russiamarker in November 1917, 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 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, as long as the interests of colonial powers had equal weight with the claims of subject peoples. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 led to Russia's exit from the war and the independence of Finlandmarker, Estoniamarker, Latviamarker, Ukrainemarker, Lithuaniamarker and Polandmarker. The end of the war led to the dissolution of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation by the Allies of Czechoslovakiamarker and the union of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbsmarker and the Kingdom of Serbiamarker as new states. 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 eventually helped lead to World War II. The defeated Ottoman empire was dissolved into the Republic of Turkeymarker and several smaller nations, including Yemenmarker, plus the new Middle east Alliedmandate” of Syria and Lebanon (future Syriamarker, Lebanonmarker and Hatay Statemarker), Palestine (future Transjordanmarker and Israelmarker), Mesopotamia (future Iraqmarker). The League of Nations was proposed as much as a means of consolidating these new states, as a path to peace.

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 the United Kingdommarker granted independence to Canadamarker, New Zealandmarker, Newfoundlandmarker, the Irish Free State, the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Union of South Africa after the British parliamentmarker declared itself as incapable of passing laws over them without their consent. Egyptmarker, Afghanistanmarker and Iraqmarker also achieved independence from Britain and Lebanonmarker from Francemarker. Other efforts were unsuccessful, like the Indian independence movement. And Italymarker, Japanmarker and Germanymarker all initiated new efforts to bring certain territories under their control, leading to World War II.

The UN Charter

In 1941 Allies of World War II signed the Atlantic Charter and accepted the principle of self-determination. In January 1942 twenty-six nations signed the Declaration by United Nations, which accepted those principles. The ratification of the United Nations Charter in 1945 at then 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). Both read: “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.

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, nations were recognized by the legal doctrine of uti possidetis juris, meaning that old administrative boundaries would become international boundaries upon independence, even if they had little relevance to linguistic, ethnic, and cultural boundaries. Nevertheless, justified by the language of self-determination, between 1946 and 1960, the peoples of thirty-seven new nations freed themselves from colonial status in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The territoriality issue inevitably would lead to more conflicts and independence movements within many nations and challenges to the assumption that territorial integrity is as important as self-determination.

The Soviet Unionmarker’s successful post-war efforts to turn Eastern Germanymarker and the countries of Eastern Europe into Soviet satellite states contrasted with decolonization. The additional success of communists in creating the People's Republic of Chinamarker led to the Cold War with western nations. These nations became willing to support authoritarian governments as long as they remained anti-communist and began to suspect all self-determinations movements of being communist-inspired or controlled. Thus the United States entered into a 10 year war in Vietnammarker, taking over from French colonialists, and supported Portugalmarker in its attempts to hold on to Angolamarker. The Soviet Unionmarker also violated principles of self-determination by suppressing the Hungarian revolution of 1956 and the Prague Spring Czechoslovak reforms of 1968. It invaded Afghanistan to support an increasingly unpopular communist government assailed by local tribal groups.

The Cold War began to wind down after Mikhail Gorbachev assumed power in March 1985. With the cooperation of 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. In 1989 in rapid succession, communist regimes collapsed in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and Romania. In December 1991, Gorbachev resigned as president and the Soviet Union dissolved relatively peacefully into fifteen sovereign republics, all of which rejected communism and most of which adopted democratic reforms and free-market economies. Yugoslavia began a much more violent break up in 1990.

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 even 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 year 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 Universitymarker 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 Universitymarker 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. 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, even though some of those units had very diverse populations. Libertarians who argue for self-determination distinguish between the voluntary nation (the land, the culture, the terrain, the people) and the state, the coercive apparatus, which they have a right to choose or self-determine.

Self-determination versus territorial integrity

National self-determination challenges the principle of territorial integrity (or sovereignty) of states because 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.

Pavkovic and Radan describe three theories of international relations relevant to self-determination.
  • The realist theory of international relations insists that territorial sovereignty is more important than national self-determination. This policy was pursued by the major powers during the Cold War.
  • Liberal internationalism has become an alternative since that time. It promotes the abolition of war among states as well as increased individual liberty within states, and holds the expansion of global markets and cross-border cooperation diminishes the significance of territorial integrity, allowing for somewhat greater recognition of greater self-determination of peoples.
  • Cosmopolitan liberalism calls for political power to shift to a world government which would make secession and change of boundaries a relatively easy administrative matter. However, also would mean the de facto end of self-determination of national groups.

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, he 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.

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 decentralize or devolve greater decision-making power to new or existing subunits or even autonomous areas. More limited measures might include restricting demands to the maintenance of national cultures or granting non-territorial autonomy in the form of national associations which would assume control over cultural matters. This would be available only to groups that abandoned secessionist demands and the territorial state would retain political and judicial control, but only if would remain with the territorially organized state.

Self-determination versus majority rule/equal rights

Pavković explores how national self-determination, in the form of creation of a new state through secession, could override the principles of majority rule and of equal rights, which are primary liberal principles. This includes the question of how an unwanted state can be imposed upon a minority. He explores five contemporary theories of secession. In “anarcho-capitalist” theory only landowners have the right to secede. In communitarian theory, only those groups that desire direct or greater political participation have the right, including groups deprived of rights, per Allen Buchanan. In two nationalist theories, only national cultural groups have a right to secede. Australian professor Harry Beran’s democratic theory endorses the equality of the right of secession to all types of groups. Unilateral secession against majority rule is justified if the group allows secession of any other group within its territory.

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.

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 amending the United States Constitution. The Supreme Courtmarker in Texas v White, held secession could occur "through revolution, or through consent of the States." The British Parliamentmarker in 1933 held that Western Australiamarker 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 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 Union of Burmamarker 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 constitutions of Austria, Ethiopiamarker, France, Singaporemarker , Saint Kitts and Nevis Republicsmarker have express or implied rights to secession. Switzerlandmarker allows for the secession from current and the creation of new cantons. In the case of proposed Quebecmarker separation from Canada the Supreme Court of Canadamarker 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 European Union Constitution allowed for the voluntary withdrawal of member states from the union. There was much discussion about such self-determination by minorities before the final document underwent the unsuccessful ratification process in 2005.

Drawing new borders

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 borders issues because the international community applied a version of uti possidetis juris in transforming existing internal borders of the various Yugoslav republics into international borders, despite the conflicts of ethnic groups within those boundaries. The northern two-thirds of Quebec already has made it clear it will resist by force being incorporated into a Quebec nation.

The border between Northern Irelandmarker and the Irish Free State was based on the borders of existing counties and did not include all of historic Ulster. A 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. Most Irish Nationalists and Irish Republicans claim all of Northern Ireland and are not particularly interested in new borders.

Current movements

For past movements see list of historical autonomist and secessionist movements and lists of decolonized nations. Also see list of autonomous areas by country and list of territorial autonomies and list of active autonomist and secessionist movements.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia


Recently (2003 onwards), self-determination has become the topic of some debate in Australia in relation to Aborigines (indigenous Australians). In the 1970s, 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.

Balochistan province

Since 1948, Baloch nationalists in Pakistanmarker, Iranmarker, and Afghanistanmarker have been seeking independence as a separate state for the Baloch people from elements outside the country. The movement has culminated in several armed uprisings in both Pakistan and Iran, that have been crushed, especially during the 1970s. The movement is strongest in Balochistan marker, where it is led by the Balochistan Liberation Army and the Baloch Students Organization.

Basque Country

The Basque Country ( , , ) as a cultural region (not to be confused with the homonym Autonomous Community of the Basque countrymarker) is a European region in the western Pyreneesmarker that spans the border between Francemarker and Spainmarker, on the Atlanticmarker coast. It comprises the autonomous communities of the Basque Countrymarker and Navarremarker in Spainmarker and then the Northern Basque Country in Francemarker.Since the 19th century, Basque nationalism has demanded the right of some kind of self-determination . This desire for independence is particularly stressed among 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 even voted against it in the referendum of December 6 of that year. However, it was approved by a clear majority at the Spanish level, and simple majority at Navarrese and Basque levels. The derived autonomous regimes for the BAC was approved in later referendum but the autonomy of Navarre (amejoramiento del fuero: "improvement of the charter") was never subject to referendum but just approved by the Navarrese Cortes (parliament).There are not many sources on the issue for the French Basque country.

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) or ETA ( ; ), is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. Founded in 1959, it evolved from a group advocating traditional cultural ways to a paramilitary group with the goal of Basque independence. Its ideology is Marxist-Leninist.


Biafra Republic was first declared in 1967 by Lt. Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu but the state could only survive for 30 months during which Nigerian government fought the break-away republic to annex it. Over 3 million Igbos lost their lives in the ensuing war.

In 1999, a new group of activists formed an organization Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign Republic of Biafra (MASSOB). Various other other groups have been formed with similar agenda.

Catalan Countries

Països Catalansmarker (in catalan, often literally translated into English as Catalan Countries) refers to the territories where Catalan language was historically spoken.These territories in the past were in the, talking in contemporary terms, Confederation of the Crown of Aragon (which included the Kingdom of Aragonmarker, the Kingdom of Valencia, the Kingdom of Majorca, Sicily, Maltamarker and Sardinia, and for a brief period, Provence, the Kingdom of Naples, the Duchy of Neopatria, and the Duchy of Athens.).

Nowadays there are a lot of movements which supports the independence of Catalan Countriesmarker from Spainmarker and Francemarker. Some of the politic parties of Catalonia, Valencian community, and Balear islands that follow this idea are Republican Left of Catalonia and Republican Left of the Valencian Country, Estat Català, Partit Republicà Català, Popular Unity Candidates, Valencian Nationalist Bloc, Bloc per Mallorca, etc. Furthermore, there are some other Catalan groups and movements that want the independence of Catalan Countries, such as: Sobirania i Progrés, Deu Mil per l'autodeterminació, Catalunya Estat Lliure , Sobirania Valenciana , etc.All these political parties and movements follow a non-violence way to express their ideas.


Under Dzhokkar 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 now reinvaded Chechnya, but the separatist government functions still in exile, though it has been split into two entities: the Achmed Zakayev-run pro-Russian Chechen Republic (based in Polandmarker, the UKmarker and the USmarker), and the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.


Under conditions of peace and in democratic state the focus of German public addresses weaker topics, as especially the Rights of informational self determination. This is a new topic in the context of surveillance of public areas and surveillance at work .

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.

Jammu and Kashmir

There is a democratic movement for independence from Indian rulemarker led by the Hurriyat Conference in India Administered Kashmirmarker. The pro-freedom groups demand that a free and impartial plebiscite under the aegis of the United Nation as per the United Nation resolutions on Kashmir be applied. And that, the UN Resolution can peacefully and permanently solve the Kashmir conflict in order to restore peace in the region and put an end to nearly 60 years of mayhem in Kashmirmarker. Some groups have even suggested that a third option of Independence be added in order to update the 'old' Resolution. UN Resolution 47 has only two options, namely union with Indiamarker and union with Pakistanmarker.


Kosovomarker is a largely ethnic-Albanianmarker nation (Albanians 88%, Serbs 6%, Bosniaks 3%, Roma 2%, Turks 1%), which seeks independence on territories long held by ethnic Serbs, including as part of Yugoslavia. Conflict between the two culminated in the 1996-1999 Kosovo War between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the then Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker led by Slobodan Milošević. This culminated in the 1999 United Statesmarker/NATOmarker attacks on Serbia, withdrawal of Serbian troops and entry of the NATO Kosovo Force. International negotiations to determine the final status of Kosovo were unsuccessful. On 17 February 2008, 109 members (10 members including all Kosovo Serbs were absent) of the Kosovo Assembly voted unanimously for a unilateral declaration of independence. Serbia rejected the decision. Kosovo is independent, supervised by the international community following the conclusion of the political process to determine Kosovo’s final status envisaged in UN Security Council Resolution 1244. See the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence. In February 2008 Europe's major powers and the United States recognised independence of Kosovo. As of November 2009, the independence of Kosovo has been recognized by countries.


Kurdistanmarker is the land of the Kurdish people of the middle east. The territory is currently part of 4 states Turkeymarker, Iraqmarker, Syriamarker and Iranmarker. 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 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. To date two separate Kurdish republics and one Kurdish Kingdom have declared sovereignty. The Republic of Ararat (Northern Kurdistan/Eastern Turkey), the Republic of Mehabadmarker (Eastern Kurdistan/Iranian Kurdistan) and the Kingdom of Kurdistanmarker (Southern Kurdistan/Northern Iraq), each of these fledgling states was crushed by military intervention. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan which currently holds the Iraqi presidency and the Kurdistan Democratic Party which governs the Kurdistan Regional Government both explicitly commit themselves to the development of Kurdish self-determination.

New Zealand

Secession movements have surfaced several times in the South Islandmarker of New Zealandmarker. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Sir Julius Vogel, was among the first people to make this call, which was voted on by the Parliament of New Zealand as early as 1865. The desire for South Island independence was one of the main factors in moving the capital of New Zealand from Aucklandmarker to Wellingtonmarker that year.

The South Island Party with a pro-South agenda, fielded candidates in the 1999 General Election and a new South Island Party was formed before the 2008 General Election. Today, the question of South Island Independence remains publicly debated but is not a political issue.

South Africa

Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia

Southern Cameroons today makes up the two English-speaking regions of the Republic of Camerounmarker, the North West and South West regions. The people of Southern Cameroons' claim to self-determination arises out of their allegations that the Republic of Camerounmarker forcefully annexed their territory by the 1961 take over of the territory and the 1972 dissolution of the federation in favor of a Unitary Republic of Cameroonmarker. Southern Cameroons scored a victory in a legal battle against the Republic of Cameroon when the African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights found that there were unresolved issues with the constitutional structure of the Republic of Cameroon vis-a-vis Southern Cameroons. More importantly, the African Commission found that contrary to the claims of the Republic of Cameroon, the people of Southern Cameroons are indeed a "people" under the African Charter and broad international law with the inalienable right to determine their destiny.

Southern Sudan

Southern Sudanmarker reached a peace agreement with Sudanmarker in 2005. It contains a referendum for self-determination in 2011.

Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan Tamils people seek self determination due to ethnic pogroms and discrimination by the majority Sinhala government’s discrimination in language, education, jobs, and civil liberties. The early non violent protests developed into a violent confrontation with the state and eventual civil war. Tamil independence advocates argue that former sovereignty of Tamils in their north eastern homeland that was lost during colonialism should be re-instated to meet Tamil aspirations.


Taiwan is the focus of a self-determination dispute in the East Asia region. The government of the People's Republic of Chinamarker claims the entirety of Taiwan as its territory. However, Taiwanese independence advocates argue that there is no legal claim to Taiwan, as no legally binding treaty ever transferred sovereignty to China following World War II, an assertion that both the People's Republic of Chinamarker and the Republic of Chinamarker disagree with. At the same time, the de facto government of Taiwan, the Republic of Chinamarker still has not formally withdrawn its claims to the mainland and several other areas.


There is a strong movement, especially from the Tibetan diaspora, for self-determination of the Tibet region. The movement is strongly opposed by the People's Republic of China.

Turkish Cypriots

Since Turkey's invasion and continued occupation of Cyprus in 1974, following ethnic clashes and turmoil on the island, an administration recognized by Turkeymarker only was declared in 1983 - the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprusmarker. It is questionable whether it was the Turkish Cypriot community who claimed the right of self-determination in ending their partnership with the Republic of Cyprusmarker, given that they were greatly out-numbered by the Turkish settlers who were brought to the area by Turkey.

United States

The colonization of the North American continent and its Native American population has been the source of legal battles since the early 1800s. Surviving Native Americans have been resettled onto separate tracts of land (reservations), which have been given a certain degree of autonomy within the United States federal government.

The Chicano Movement (or Chicano nation) seeks to recreate Aztlán, the legendary homeland of the Aztecs comprising the Southwestern United States which is home to the majority of Mexican Americans.

There is an active Hawaiian sovereignty movement which aims at reversing the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in the late 19th century, which resulted in the incorporation of Hawai'imarker into the United States.

Since 1972, the U.N. Decolonization Committee has called for Puerto Rico's decolonization and for the U.S. 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 follows the 1967 passage of a plebiscite act that provided for a vote on the status of Puerto Rico with three status options: continued commonwealth, statehood, and independence. In the first plebscite the commonwealth option won with 60.4% of the votes but U.S. congressional committees failed to enact legislation to address the status issue. In subsequent plebiscites in 1993 and 1998, the status quo was upheld.

Many current U.S. 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."

See also



  • 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, 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, G E N E V A 2000, preface by Richard Falk, 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.

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