An international NGO in consultative status with the United Nations
Francis A. Boyle, Director, People's Bureau
PEOPLE'S BUREAU

ABOUT SELF-DETERMINATION
    The right to self-determination is a universally recognized human right. Article 1 of both major international human rights treaties (The
    International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) states:

    1. 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.
    2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising
    out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people
    be deprived of its own means of subsistence.

    For additional legal documents, papers and other resources on self-determination, see here.
The right to self-determination is not a one-size-fits-all.  
There are a range of possibilities, from voluntary assimilation to political independence.
POLITICAL
INDEPENDENCE
ASSIMILATION
Where are we now?
The right to self-determination may be fulfilled through a range of options, running from full and voluntary assimilation into the majority group on the
one hand, to secession from exercise varying degrees of institutional and rule-making powers that facilitate their management of their unique collective
needs without resorting to secession.  They include such options as autonomy, federalism, jurisdiction over specific sectors of government (education, family
law, local policing, etc.), the structuring of various sub-governmental entities through federal structures, the establishment of political parties, quotas, etc..  
Self-determination may be structured or be negotiated to inhere in territories or in the peoples/individuals themselves, where not territorially concentrated.

The status of a people is not static, but part of a historical process.  Peoples may move towards greater or lesser degrees of self-determination
depending on changes in their relationship with the state wherein they reside.  Peoples can be moving either towards full assimilation or towards full
independence. If conditions are satisfactory or unsurmountable, they may come to rest somewhere along that line. The horizontal ladder above indicates only
a few of the possibilities:  As long as it is voluntary, movement in either direction is legitimate.
There are a lot of questions that need answers.
Where are my people now?
What are the options?
Which way is best for us?
How can we get there?
However, many peoples wish to preserve and maintain their unique cultural identities and ways of life as the foundation for their future collective development. Peoples internal to
multinational states (including those who may be legally citizens but live in lands that are territorially separate) may feel that both their equality and their development depends on
their having their hands on some or all of the governmental levers that guide and manage their collective destiny.  
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