The Right of Self-Determination

Self-determination is the freedom to choose one’s own acts without external compulsion.  The term is generally associated with the freedom of the people of a given territory to determine their own political status.  It is the power of a nation to decide how it will be governed without the influence of any other country

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.  The following are a few examples.

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) 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.

United Nations Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples; General Assembly resolution 1803 (XVII) of December14, 1962, “Permanent sovereignty over natural resources” and International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries are certain other UN declarations and conventions which discuss various aspects of self determination of the people.

Nevertheless, justified by the language of self-determination, between 1946 and 1960, the peoples of many 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.  However, most sovereign states do not recognize the right to self-determination through secession in their constitutions.


Inside The Right of Self-Determination