self determinationright to self-determinationnational self-determinationright of self-determinationnational independenceCatalan right of self-determinationautonomydeterminationself-determination of all nationsself-determining
The right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law (commonly regarded as a jus cogens rule), binding, as such, on the United Nations as authoritative interpretation of the Charter's norms.wikipedia
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The employment of imperialism, through the expansion of empires, and the concept of political sovereignty, as developed after the Treaty of Westphalia, also explain the emergence of self-determination during the modern era.
In recent times, it has been considered morally reprehensible and prohibited by international law.


Nationalism emerged as a uniting ideology not only between competing powers, but also for groups that felt subordinated or disenfranchised inside larger states; in this situation, self-determination can be seen as a reaction to imperialism.
Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power (popular sovereignty).


autonomousnational autonomysemi-autonomous
The principle does not state how the decision is to be made, nor what the outcome should be, whether it be independence, federation, protection, some form of autonomy or full assimilation.
Institutional autonomy was often seen as a synonym for self-determination, and many governments feared that it would lead institutions to an irredentist or secessionist region.

Rise of nationalism in Europe

Nationalismrise of nationalism
Meanwhile, in Europe itself there was a rise of nationalism, with nations such as Greece, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria seeking or winning their independence.
Rule by monarchies and foreign control of territory was replaced by self-determination and newly formed national governments.

Atlantic Charter

Atlantic Conferencewartime Anglo-American partnershipArgentia conference
During World War II, the principle was included in the Atlantic Charter, signed on 14 August 1941, by Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who pledged The Eight Principal points of the Charter.

1920 East Prussian plebiscite

East Prussian plebisciteplebisciteWarmia and Masuria plebiscite
On 11 July 1920, the East Prussian plebiscite called for by the Treaty of Versailles led to two disputed regions between Germany and Poland choosing the former.
The East Prussia(n) plebiscite (Abstimmung in Ostpreußen), also known as the Allenstein and Marienwerder plebiscite or Warmia, Masuria and Powiśle plebiscite (Plebiscyt na Warmii, Mazurach i Powiślu), was a plebiscite for self-determination of the regions southern Warmia (Ermland), Masuria (Mazury, Masuren) and Powiśle, which had been in parts of the East Prussian Government Region of Allenstein and of West Prussian Government Region of Marienwerder, in accordance with Articles 94 to 97 of the Treaty of Versailles.


They also supported the right of all nations, including colonies, to self-determination." The 1918 Constitution of the Soviet Union acknowledged the right of secession for its constituent republics.
Movements that work towards political secession may describe themselves as being autonomy, separatist, independence, self-determination, partition, devolution, decentralization, sovereignty, self-governance or decolonization movements instead of, or in addition to, being secession movements.

International law

public international lawinternationallaw of nations
The right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law (commonly regarded as a jus cogens rule), binding, as such, on the United Nations as authoritative interpretation of the Charter's norms.
International law began to incorporate more naturalist notions such as self determination and human rights.


During the 1920s and 1930s there were some successful movements for self-determination in the beginnings of the process of decolonization.
The fundamental right to self-determination is identified by the United Nations as core to decolonization, allowing not only independence, but also other ways of decolonization.

Fourteen Points

Wilson's 14 PointsWoodrow Wilson's 14 points14 Points
Having announced his Fourteen Points on 8 January 1918, on 11 February 1918 Wilson stated: "National aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. 'Self determination' is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action."
The speech made by Wilson took many domestic progressive ideas and translated them into foreign policy (free trade, open agreements, democracy and self-determination).

United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories

non-self-governing territoryNon-Self-Governing Territorieslist of non-self-governing territories
Article 5 states: Immediate steps shall be taken in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories, or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the people of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.
Also in 1960, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 1514 (XV), promulgating the "Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples", which declared that all remaining non-self-governing territories and trust territories were entitled to self-determination and independence.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

ICCPRInternational Covenant of Civil and Political RightsInternational Convention on Civil and Political Rights
The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.

Woodrow Wilson

WilsonPresident WilsonPresident Woodrow Wilson
During and after World War I, the principle was encouraged by both Vladimir Lenin and United States President Woodrow Wilson.
Other points included the evacuation of occupied territory, the establishment of an independent Poland, and self-determination for the peoples of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.

Bangladesh Liberation War

Liberation War of Bangladeshliberation warBangladesh War of Independence
In 1971 Bangladesh obtained independence from Pakistan.
The Bangladesh Liberation War, also known as the Bangladesh War of Independence, or simply the Liberation War''' in Bangladesh, was a revolution and armed conflict sparked by the rise of the Bengali nationalist and self-determination movement in what was then East Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.


sovereignsovereign entitysovereign nation
It states that people, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no interference.
A community of people who claim the right of self-determination based on a common ethnicity, history and culture might seek to establish sovereignty over a region, thus creating a nation-state.

State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs

National Council of Slovenes, Croats and SerbsNational CouncilState of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs
The end of the war led to the dissolution of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire and Czechoslovakia and the union of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and the Kingdom of Serbia as new states out of the wreckage of the Habsburg empire.
The meeting produced a joint resolution that proclaimed the unity of the people of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (a "unified nation" with the latter described as equal "tribes" whose peculiar historical positions and desires are to be accommodated), demanded a right of self-determination and possession of the territory they occupied, including the whole of Cisleithania.

1920 Schleswig plebiscites

Schleswig PlebiscitesSchleswig Plebisciteplebiscite
Germany lost land after WWI: Northern Schleswig voted to return to Denmark after a referendum.
At the same time, he effectively abandoned his second line, as the population of Central Schleswig remained pro-German, and as he considered it vital that the future border should be based on the self-determination of the local populace.

World War I

First World WarGreat WarWorld War One
During and after World War I, the principle was encouraged by both Vladimir Lenin and United States President Woodrow Wilson.
In April 1918, the Rome Congress of Oppressed Nationalities met, including Czechoslovak, Italian, Polish, Transylvanian, and Yugoslav representatives who urged the Allies to support national self-determination for the peoples residing within Austria-Hungary.

National Socialist Program

25-Point ProgramNazi Party Program25 points
In particular, the National Socialist Program invoked this right of nations in its first point (out of 25), as it was publicly proclaimed on 24 February 1920 by Adolf Hitler.

Republic of Artsakh

ArtsakhNagorno-Karabakh RepublicNagorno-Karabakh
The Republic of Artsakh (Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh), in the Caucasus region, declared its independence basing on self-determination rights on September 2, 1991.
In 1991, a referendum held in the NKAO and the neighbouring Shahumian region resulted in a declaration of independence based on its right of self-determination.

Sovereign state

statestatessovereign states
Most sovereign states do not recognize the right to self-determination through secession in their constitutions.
Sovereignty has taken on a different meaning with the development of the principle of self-determination and the prohibition against the threat or use of force as jus cogens norms of modern international law.

Nagorno-Karabakh War

Nagorno Karabakh WarKarabakh warNagorno-Karabakh conflict
It successfully defended its independence in subsequent war with Azerbaijan, but remains largely unrecognized by UN states today.
But the Armenians viewed the 1921 Kavburo decision with disdain and felt that in their efforts they were correcting a historical error through the principle of self-determination, a right also granted in the constitution.

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV)

On 15 December 1960 the United Nations General Assembly adopted United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV), subtitled "Principles which should guide members in determining whether or nor an obligation exists to transmit the information called for under Article 73e of the United Nations Charter in Article 3", which provided that "[t]he inadequacy of political, economic, social and educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying the right to self-determination and independence."
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 of 15 December 1960, titled "Principles which should guide members in determining whether or not an obligation exists to transmit the information called for under Article 73e of the Charter" was a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly during its fifteenth session with annexes of 12 principles, that affirmed that to ensure decolonisation, complete compliance with the principle of self-determination is required.

Localism in Hong Kong

localistlocalismlocalist movement
Since then, localism has gained momentum, particularly after the failure of the peaceful Umbrella Movement.
On the autonomy of Hong Kong, many of them advocate the Hong Kong people's right to self-determination, while milder elements advocate for greater autonomy while remaining part of China, and the most radical call for return to British rule or full independence as a sovereign state.