Declaration on Self-Determination: A Blueprint for a Better World Order

Updated: Mar 12

What follows is presumptuous, almost preposterous. And yet, if we are to hold on to political hope, we should, I believe, restart a conversation on what the principles and practices of a new, better, world order might look like. I start with self-determination. Below are no Ten Commandments, but ten tentative recommendations, a possible foundation for what a fruitful engagement with our joint political future.

Principles


1. Right and duty: All people, and all peoples, have the right to pursue self-determination; states, individually and collectively, have a duty to encourage it.


2. Territorial integrity: States and their borders are not sacred, but means to an end: protecting people, and allowing them to flourish.


3. Freedom and liberty: Self-determination ought to cultivate human freedom (choice) and demarcate liberty (control).


4. Positive and negative liberties (Who is in control? Over what?): Self-determination warrants both emancipation from domination (negative liberty) and the moral authority of people/s (positive liberty).


5. Duality and mutuality: Self-determination is dual: encouraging the individual to determine their collective identity, and the collective, to assert its polity; it is also mutual: granted to the “self” to the extent that it is also given to the “other/s.”


Practice


1. UNSDO: Living up to its titular denotation, the UN should establish a “UN self-determination organization” (UNSDO) to disseminate, implement, coordinate, and monitor the principles above.


2. Secession: Secession is a viable political path of self-determination, but a last resort. UNSDO will work with the “parent-state” and the self-determination movement to reach an accommodation that does not necessitate secession.


3. Referendums: A self-determination plebiscite is a proper vehicle of political choice.

a. Initiation: Any UN member state can request a referendum, which must garner the support of at least a third of the UN General Assembly vote and approval by the UN Security Council.

b. Moratorium: Referendums are to be held no less than a year, and no more than three years, after their UN approval.

c. Question/s: UNSDO shall facilitate the formulation of the plebiscite, taking care that the wording does not favor a particular outcome.

d. Support threshold: The parties, aided by UNSDO, shall agree on a threshold for voting for change – no less than half the eligible voters, no more than two thirds of the actual voters.

e. Implementation: UNSDO will monitor the fair running of the referendum, sanctioning its final results.


4. Statehood:

a. Moratorium: Referendum-approved secession shall commence only after the parent-state is granted an opportunity to persuade the public to change its mind within a period of at least one year and no more than three years. At the parent-state’s request, a pre-implementation referendum may be held to possibly revoke secession (Practice #3 rules apply).

b. Matryoshka Doll effect: Domestic communities affected by the change have the right to pursue the same cause and course.

c. Regime: Statehood is predicated on state- and democracy-building, both aided by UNSDO


5. Association: The new polity may be allowed to join the IGOs and NGOs of the parent-country, predicated on meeting the same admission criteria.

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