Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights

Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights

Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights

Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights

Synopsis

Demands for "autonomy" or minority rights have given rise to conflicts, often violent, in every region of the world and under every political system. Through an analysis of contemporary international legal norms and an examination of several specific case studies--including Hong Kong, India, the transnational problems of the Kurds and Saamis, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Spain, Sri Lanka, and the Sudan--this book identifies a framework in which ethnic, religious, and regional conflicts can be addressed.

Excerpt

While this book is written from the perspective of an international lawyer, its focus is on individuals and groups rather than states, the traditional subjects and objects of international law. of course, the state system is the context in which the discussion occurs, but the primary concern is to examine the ways in which international law and domestic constitutional arrangements can contribute to resolving disputes between minority and majority groups which, if not resolved, often lead to violent conflicts.

Most of the situations examined in Parts ii and iii are examples of ethnic conflict, a term which for the past two decades has been a popular subject of investigation and discussion among social scientists. in an introduction such as this, one formerly was expected to list the numerous instances of ethnic or religious conflict around the world which justified the particular scholarly work at hand; today, such conflicts are so widespread and well known that it seems superfluous to offer justifications for addressing them.

1 While lawyers, politicians, and the general public use the terms “state” and “nation” interchangeably, this book will adopt the distinction drawn by political scientists, sociologists, and others between a recognized political entity that exercises the functions of government, the “state,” and a cultural or social grouping with certain shared characteristics (such as language or ethnicity), known as a “nation.” While this practice runs the risk of confusing American audiences for whom a state is a political subdivision of the United States and does some injustice to terms such as “international” and “United Nations,” it seems the best available. See chap. 2 for a more detailed examination of these and related concepts.

2 the problem of ethnic conflict has even reached the front page of the Washington Post, which accurately observed that “[t]hese simmering conflicts, rooted in the most basic forms of human identity, often do not command the headlines that rivet world attention on international wars and guerrilla insurgencies, but they frequently prove more vicious and intractable.” the story went on to identify 25 current examples of ethnic and religious

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