Escaping the Self-Determination Trap

There is new movement in the discussion about self-determination and statehood. The contested declaration of independence by Kosovo and Russia’s recognition of the purported independence of Abkhasia and South Ossetia have caused significant controversy. These developments may well put an end to the attempt by governments to keep in place the highly restricted doctrine of self-determination that has previously only been made available in the colonial context.

This monograph argues that classical self-determination, narrowly conceived in the colonial context. cannot contribute to the resolution of the presently ongoing self-determination conflicts around the world. However, this study finds that over the past few years a new practice of addressing self-determination conflicts has emerged. This practice significantly extends our understanding of the legal right to self-determination and of the means that can be brought to bear in terminating secessionist conflicts.
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Biographical Note

Marc Weller is Reader in International Law and International Relations in the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Hughes Hall and of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, and Director of the European Centre for Minority Issues. He has served as a legal advisor in many international peace negotiations addressing ethnic conflicts.

Table of contents

Preface; Acknowledgements; I. Introduction; II. A Concept with Multiple Meanings; III. The Classical Right to Self-determination; IV. Constitutional Self-determination; V. Remedial Self-determination; VI. Effective Entities; VII. Trading Self-determination for Autonomy or Enhanced Self-governance; VIII. Regionalisation, Federalisation, or Union with Confirmation of Territorial Unity; IX. Deferring a Substantive Settlement while Agreeing to a Settlement Mechanism; X. Balancing Self-determination Claims; XI. Conditional Self-determination; XII. Agreeing on Self-determination but Deferring Implementation; XIII. Establishing a De Facto State through an International Process; XIV. Supervised Independence; XV. Conclusion: New Approaches to Self-determination Settlements; Annex I: Levels of Legal Privileges of Entities; Annex II: Settlements and Steps towards Settlement; Bibliography.

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