concept that not only shed its lustrous light on the democratic ideal, but also representative of a
fact that ancient political thought has witnessed right to the modern era; that the free will of an
individual can never be restrained or compromised, no matter how resolute the power of the
sovereign is to incarcerate this basic fundamental tenet ascribed to, by International law. The
United Nations Charter, along with the International covenants on civil & political rights as well
as the International covenant on economic, social & cultural rights bestows the right to self
determination in the following words, "All peoples have the rights of self-determination. By
virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic,
social and cultural development."
The International court of justice also authenticates this view
as stated by it in the West-Saharan case: "The need to pay regard to the freely expressed will of
Therefore, one can infer from these statements that the concept of self-determination
isn't one that is banally confined only to a particular group of people, or an individual; indeed,
self-determination is the nucleus, the spirit & soul of Human rights. The delicate yet resilient
essence of International Law & human rights, weaves itself mellifluously around this intrinsic,
substantive core, arousing the deep seated assertion to freedom; a basic fundamental right the
man of intellect has claim to, by his being part of the human family.
A -The Recognition & Rise of Self-determinism
Self-determinism is tantamount to social equality. It acquiesces to the inherent privilege of an
individual & groups of people to unreservedly & freely obtain for themselves all such rights that
would foster & assist the realization of a man's full potential. History bears testimony to the
intensification of the self-determinism process. Amidst the beginnings of a revolutionary
twentieth century, the political discourses of Wilson, Stalin & Lenin laid great emphasis on the
necessity of nation states to set a paradigm that would act as a catalyst in the expansion of self-
determinism. President Woodrow Wilson's fourteen points, was induced by the amelioration of
1 Charter of the United Nations , chapter 1 Purposes & Principles, Article 1 available at http://www.un.org
charter/chapter1.shtml [accessed /en/documents/ 12 May 2010]
2 Western Sahara (ICJ 1975) - Advisory Opinion of 16 October 1975 - General List No. 61 (1974-1975)
3 'vox populi'-opinions or beliefs of the majority-Elizabeth Knowles, Oxford dictionary of phrase & fable, 2006
4 Constitution of Soviet Union, July 10th, 1918 available at
http://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/government/constitution/1918/index.htm [accessed 15 May 2010]
domestic reform in the U.S, which mirrored his progressive aspirations for America, through
self-determinism. He perceived self-determinism as `vox populi'
& believed that the will of the
peoples should be disengaged from the repressive will of the government. Joseph Stalin &
Vladimir Lenin heralded a new era of political thought on self-determinism for both Russia &
Europe. Their philosophy on social reform & international alliances led the Bolsheviks to bestow
the right of self-determinism on nations & colonies. Subsequently, the Soviet Union embodied
the principle of self-determinism through its constitution by affirming the right to secession for
its minority republics, in 1918.
The prior colonization system that was established by Europe,
France & America was fast becoming an increasingly coherent perversity in the wake of the
aftermath of the Second World War, when the promulgation of the UN Charter, dissented the
view that the principles of self-determinism do not apply to colonies & embodied the right to
self-determination as "To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the
principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples."
B- Peremptory Norm of International law & `Erga omnes'
The decolonization process inspired & supplemented a momentum of a spontaneous yet
discerning growth of nationalism in the decades that followed. It saw the transition of the
concept of self-determination as a principle, to a right; against a backdrop of a people
consciousness that arose like the phoenix from the ashes, from the remnants of the disparaging
phase of the two world wars. Self-determinism no longer remained the child of the unacquainted.
Hereafter, Self-determination as a right thrust itself forward into the cradle of International law,
characterizing itself with the inimitability of `Jus cogens'.
It became an essential rule of
International law, which was to be observed by all states. Having been endowed with the status
of `jus cogens', self-determinism exemplified a universal demeanor that existed despite treaty
5 Western Sahara (ICJ 1975) (...) supra note 1
Jus Cogens -peremptory norm. As interpreted by the Vienna convention on the Law of treaties, 23rd May, 
entered into force on the 27th of January, . United Nations, 'treaty series' vol.1155, p.331
laws. This aspect of self-determinism verified itself in the 1928 Pablo Najera case
and the 1934
Oscar Chinn case
. It was both an obligation & duty on the part of the state to observe this norm
of jus cogens, and therefore it also obtained the status of `erga omnes'
i.e. a statutory right
towards all. `Erga omnes' was first conceptualized in the Barcelona traction case judged by the
International court of Justice in 1970.
C- Self-determinism in the Post-Colonial era & effects of Globalization
Despite the appreciation & merits granted to the concept of self-determinism through
international covenants, instruments & charters, this refined principle finds itself relegated &
subjected to being a mere political rhetoric. It has deprived those, who truly earned this right to
self-determination, of their most fundamental recourse to justice, against the absolutism of
governments that are audacious in their ignorance of basic human rights & International law. The
global community of today is a closely knit congregation that seeks to espouse co-operation
amongst fellow nation states, economically, socially & politically. Globalization fuelled a fresh
wave of opportunities for scientific, educational, infrastructural & economic advancement.
However, it also generated undesirable effects among those marginal groups that were
vulnerable to losing their identity, in the vast sea of global dimensions.
Having experienced the
obliteration two world wars elicited, the International community found itself increasingly resort
Pablo Nájera (France) v. United Mexican States. The French Mexican claims commission. Decision No. 30-A of
19 October  (United Nations Reports of International Arbitral awards, vol. V (Sales No. 1952.V.3), p. 466).
The Oscar Chinn case UK v. Belgium  Permanent court of International justice (PCIJ) Rep, Series A/B,
Erga omnes: The obligations or rights towards all. Articles 55 & 56 of the Charter of the United Nations (...)
supra note 1
Barcelona Traction Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company, Limited, Second Phase, Judgment,
International Court of Justice Reports , p. 3.
11 International Conference on "The Implementation of The Right to Self-determination as a Contribution to
Conflict Prevention",  available at
[accessed 18 May 2010]
12. `Sovereignty' by Dan Philpot, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy available at
http://www.illc.uva.nl/~seop/entries/sovereignty/ [accessed 19 May 2010]
13. `Sovereignty' Dan Philpot (...) supra note 12.
14. 'consensus ad idem'- meeting of minds. section 13 of the Indian contract act, 
to the ideas of mutually beneficial collaborations, negotiation, diplomacy & friendship. This
fresh approach by the International community, in order to promote International co-operation,
included the granting of the right to secede to indigenous minorities who had declared their right
to self-determination. Article I of the United Nations charter paved way in the Post world war
period for the right of self-determination to thrive & expand. The Tibetans, Africans in West
Sahara, Kashmiri Indians, Burmese in British Burma, and the Sri Lankan Tamils were a few of
the spirited advocates of self-determination in the post world war II period, when the
decolonization process was fully under way. Many of them succeeded in achieving that position
of autonomy they had anticipated, through self-determination; but others are still embroiled in
the confounding dual forces of territorial integrity & the issue of ethnic minorities against a
backdrop of contemporary reality of the State system & its evolution since the treaty of West
I. Internal, External aspects of self-determinism & the Right to Secession
The right to self-determinism exhibits two aspects-Internal & external; where Internal self-
determinism would entail the right to zealously contribute to the democratic process by
distinguishing leaders from the general populace and ascertain the form of government they wish
to be administered by, at the state level. It embraces the right to establishing political, linguistic,
cultural, or religious autonomy within the confines of an existing state. External self-determinism
on the other hand deals with the right to determine the state's character in relation to other states
on the International political arena and is inclusive of the right to secede & the right to determine
the political status of the public within the state.
There are observable deviations in both the
approaches to the concept of self-determinism, yet there exists a 'consensus ad idem'
on the fact
that the right to self-determinism must be employed with a righteous aim to safeguard and
cultivate cordial relations amid states in order to promote mutual peace & harmony. Self-
determinism is to be applied in the broader context of International law, & goes beyond the right
to secession. It is an actualization of human need that outlines its dependency on socio-political
environment, in order to grow, protect & preserve the rights of the weak classes, characterized
sometimes by a common religion, race, ethnicity, language or territorial boundaries. While
Excerpt out of 10 pages
- Quote paper
- Andrea Johnson (Author), 2010, How Self Determinism has changed, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/387037