May 23

Written by Allen Yu

Increasingly, self-determination is used as a rallying cry for separatist movements around the world, from Kosovo to Tibetan independence. Many separatist movements have leveraged symbols of European Imperialism to cast their cause as a fight for freedom.

On the one hand, such use of self-determination seems to be appropriate. The West conquered a large part of the world over the last 500 years, causing wide devastations and detriments to many peoples across the world. Calls for self-determination by former colonies in the aftermath of WWII rightfully became a rallying cry for all dispossessed people in the world.

On the other hand, today’s zeal for self-determination along religious and ethnic lines may also be fanning unnecessary religious and ethnic divisiveness around the world (see, e.g., book excerpt from the “Self Determination of Peoples” and book excerpt from “Modern Law of Self Determination“). From Rwanda to Serbia to the Middle East to Tibet, heightened religious and ethnic consciousness is stoking unprecedented strife and discord.
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