Right to Self-Determination

Topics: Human rights, Nationalism, Aung San Suu Kyi Pages: 6 (2058 words) Published: October 14, 2008
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, self-determination is the right or ability of a country or a person to manage their own affairs. Even though there are more than 208 nation states, there are still a number of people struggling for their rights towards self-determination. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states in Article 15 that everyone has the right to a nationality and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality or denied the right to change his nationality. But what are the criteria of identity for a ‘people’? Is it essential identity or contingent identity that make a people? In this essay I am going to analyze the methods towards self-determination, who has rights to self-determination, stages of self-determination, self-determination beyond nation states and the notion of self-determination as a right.

There are two ways of attaining self-determination; pacifism or violence. To be a pacifist is to oppose all forms of war or violence as a means of settling a dispute or gaining advantage. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi who refused to use violence to oppose the foreigners is a common example of a pacifist. Aung San Suu Kyi, a non-violent pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Myannmar was awarded Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a repressive military dictatorship. Later on, she was put under house arrest but even though she was allowed freedom if she fled the country, she refused. Up till now, Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest and is currently on a starvation protest. Violence is another way to self-determination. Instrumental violence, meaning violence with an end and subject to moral constraints of just warfare is one of the most morally defensible methods used for self-determination. Well-known examples of this are when the European states and the United States were acquiring empires around the globe during the nineteenth century where the ‘natives’ of the colonized states begin aggressive forms of national self-assertion. The ‘natives’ only feel the need to protect their country and thus, instill the spirit of nationalism in them. In the case of Rwanda where the Hutus and the Tutsis are at war with each other because of economic and ethnic pressures, the Hutus were supported by the French who it is claimed supplied them with weapons and training the ethnic Hutu militia members who plotted the genocide. At last, the Tutsi rebels or Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) defeated the Hutu regime and ended the genocide. To this day, Rwanda is having difficulty in building democracy because there is no trust between the Tutsis and the Hutus due to the tension that they face.

I believe that human rights should be for everyone regardless of colour, race or religion. In fact, it is the right of the people to be able to determine their own future through democracy and egalitarianism. There should not be discrimination as to who is able to have a say in the matter of the country. The people must also not be brainwashed by inaccurate dogma set by the foreigners. In spite of this, nation states that are better off than others should help other nation states that are less fortunate. As an example, instead of colonizing or being a revanchist, foreign countries that have more food to spare should help countries that are in dire starvation. Even though most countries claim that they have allocated a percentage of their assets to help other countries that are in need of aid, they probably allocate less than 2% of their total capital. Foreigners sometimes use total violence which means total intellectual destruction of ideological shape that makes people think they’re sub-human. Franz Fanon, author of one of the most important works on decolonization, The Wretched of the Earth states in his book that the ‘settlers’ treat the ‘natives’ as the lower forms of man. In his own words, ‘as if to show the...

Bibliography: Ishay, MR (ed.) 2007, The Human Rights Reader,4th edn, Routledge, London.
Kolodziej, E A 1995, Dilemmas of Self-Determination, Arms Control, Disarmament & International Security, University of Illinois, Available from: [2 September 2008]
Mohamad, M 2008, Affirmative Action, Chedet.com, Available from: [2 September 2008]
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Stanford Computer Science 2007, The History of Apartheid in South Africa, Stanford University Computer Science Department, Available from: < http://www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~cale/cs201/apartheid.hist.html/> [2 September 2008]
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