Self-determination and international order

The Monist 89 (2):356 - 370 (2006)
Towards the end of the first world war, a “principle of self-determination” was proposed as a foundation for international order. In the words of its chief advocate, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, it specified that the “settlement of every question, whether of territory, of sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship” is to be made “upon the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned and not upon the basis of the material interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for sake of its own exterior influence or mastery” (Wilson 1927, 233). The principle played a significant role in deliberations about lands newly liberated by the first world war, and, in the aftermath of the second, it was enshrined within Article 1 of the United Nations Charter which called upon member nations “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” Its status within international law was further heightened by the 1966 Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, whose first articles specify the following: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.” In 1970, General Assembly Resolution 2625 added that, “every state has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provision of the Charter.”.
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