How Should International Society Address Questions of Self-Determination?

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Mikulas Fabry, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, will be giving a talk at the Princeton Liechtenstein Institute of Self-Determination.


The presentation will argue that this question can only be answered by wrestling with the historical international practice of addressing claims of self-determination. International responses to these claims have rested on two broad conceptions – self-determination as a negative and a positive right. The negative conception, dominant throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th century, took self-determination to be a right of self-defined peoples to achieve independent statehood by their own efforts without foreign interference. If a people attained a de facto independent state, then that state qualified for external recognition. The positive conception, prevalent since post-1945 decolonization, has taken self-determination to be a right of pre-defined populations to independence in international law. Populations holding this right have qualified for general external recognition, whereas those not holding it have not. The development of self-determination as a positive international right, however, has not led to a disappearance of claims to independent statehood that stand outside of its confines. Groups that are deeply dissatisfied with the countries in which they presently find themselves continue to make demands for independence even though they may have no positive entitlement to it, giving rise to a variety of challenges across the globe. The presentation will conclude by expressing doubt that contemporary international society can find a sustainable basis for the right of self-determination other than the original negative conception.

More information and where to RSVP can be found on the host's website.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: gwyner3
  • Created: 03/22/2022
  • Modified By: gwyner3
  • Modified: 03/28/2022


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