International Law and Self-Determination

The Interplay of the Politics of Territorial Possession with Formulations of Post-Colonial 'National' Identity


The principle of self-determination has at heart the achievement of true representation and democracy based on the idea that the consent of the governed alone can give government legitimacy. The principle was primarily responsible for the decolonisation process that shaped our current international community. `Self-determination' has been used in equal rhetorical brilliance by a number of leaders - some meritorious, with a genuine concern for human emancipation, others dubious, with ascendancy to power at the heart of their project. In any case, `self-determination' has come to mean different things in different contexts.
Being a vital principle, especially in the post-colonial state, it is one factor that represents a threat to world order while at the same time holding out the promise of longer-term peace and security based on values of democracy, equity and justice. This book looks at the intricacies of the norm in its current ambiguous manifestation and seeks to deconstruct it with regard to three particularly inter-related discourses: that of minority rights, statehood and sovereignty, and the doctrine of uti possidetis which shaped the modern post-colonial state.
These norms are then analysed further within two case studies. One, concerning the creation of Bangladesh where `self-determination' was achieved. The second, examines the situation in the Western Sahara where `self-determination' (whatever its manifestation) is yet to be expressed. In the course of these case studies we seek to highlight the problematic nature of `national identity' and the `self' in settings far removed from post-Westphalian Europe.

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Acknowledgements. Abbreviations. Table of Documents. Table of Cases. Table of Treaties. Table of UN Documents. Introduction. Part I: Theoretical Underpinnings of the Discourse of Self-Determination. 1. The History of the Norm of Self-Determination. 2. Who Are the People? National Minorities in Self-Determination Discourse. 3. The State and Self-Determination: The Conceptual Conflict between Self-Determination and Territorial Sovereignty. 4. The Norm of Uti Possidetis Juris: The Deciding Factor in the Creation of Modern National Identity. Part II: Practical Implications of the Discourse of Self-Determination in Bangladesh and the Western Sahara. Case Study I: `Self-Determination' Achieved. 5. The Bangladeshi Secession in International Law: Setting New Standards? Case Study II: `National' Identity in the Western Sahara; Part 1. 6. Modern International Legal History of the Conflict over the Western Sahara. Case Study II: `National Identity in the Western Sahara; Part 2. 7. The Western Sahara Case and the Fallacy of the Self-Determination Discourse. Conclusion. Bibliography. Appendices. Index.
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