Human Rights, Autonomy and National Sovereingty

Ethical Perspectives 7 (1):24-36 (2000)
Abstract
This paper examines the legal and ethical problems involved in reconciling two separate rights, each of which plays a fundamental role in the current philosophical debate surrounding international relations and international law: the right to national sovereignty to which many states lay claim, on the one hand , and the right to self-determination , on the other.Refusal to grant the right of self-determination frequently leads to the violation of the human rights of nationally, ethnically, racially or religiously defined population groups. In any justification of or claim to national sovereignty, and also in the claim of national minorities to autonomy, the concept of nationhood plays a decisive role. In part I of this paper, I will therefore be attempting to shed light on the history and the terminological content of the concept of nationhood, with a view to making use, in part II, of the knowledge thus gained in the search for a solution to the outlined legal and ethical problem. In this debate, I distinguish between the nation and the nation-state. It is possible to conceive nations which have no state, as well as states which serve no nation or serve several nations at once as a political forum.In resolving the question of whether nation-state sovereignty takes priority over regional autonomy or vice versa, we will also be addressing the question of the importance attributable to human rights, taken to mean individual rights, as against the collective rights of both nation-state sovereignty and regional autonomy
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