International law and self-determination : the interplay of the politics of territorial possession with formulations of national identity
The principle of self-determination has great pedigree. It is a norm that had at heart, the foundations of the concept of democracy - based on the idea that the consent of the governed alone, could give a government legitimacy. These noble ideas, expressed in the American and French Declarations form the cornerstone to the principle of self-determination. This is the principle that, through changes influenced by various political factors. was primarily responsible for the decolonisation process that has shaped the current international community. Self-determination has been used in equal rhetorical brilliance by a number of great leaders - some meritorious, with a genuine concern for human emancipation, others dubious, with the vested interest of ascendancy to power at the heart of their project. In any case, 'self-determination' has come to mean different things in different contexts. It is this particular issue that this thesis wishes to tackle. Being a vital principle, especially in the context of the post-colonial state, it is one factor that at once, represents a threat to world order, while at the same time holding out the promise of a longer-term peace and security based on values of democracy, equity and justice. This thesis looks at the intricacies of the norm in its current ambiguous manifestation and seeks to deconstruct it with regard to three particularly inter-linked discourses: that of minority rights. statehood & sovereignty and the doctrine of uti possidetis which shaped the modern post-colonial state. IN analysing these factors we shall focus specifically on the option of secession from the modern post-colonial state - one of three options stated explicitly by General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) as constituting the act of self-determination. These norms are then sought to be analysed further within two case studies. The first of these looks briefly at the situation concerning the creation of Bangladesh - a case of self-determination achieved. The second case study, much more complex in itself, looks at the situation concerning the Western Sahara where self-determination (whatever its manifestation) is yet to be expressed. In the course of this latter case study we shall seek to highlight the problematic nature of 'national identity' and the 'self in settings far removed from post-Westphalian Europe from where these norms originate, and which remain so integral to the modern discourse of international law.