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Published: 24 June 2022

The Dynamics of Self-determination in the Context of Statehood and Sovereignty in International Law

Charles Okeke

Huanggang Normal University, China

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Pages: 94-117

Keywords: International Law, People, Self-Determination, Sovereignty, Statehood, Territorial Integrity


The dynamics of self-determination have increasingly demanded the attention of academics, policymakers, and the international community in general. This can be attributed to the new age of the communications revolution; peoples are increasingly aware of state systems and how they can be recognized and respected within a state system. These people, largely with peculiarities, whether to be recognized within a state or internationally, are now pushing to exercise what they perceive as their right to self-determination, which in their calculation includes the right to independent statehood; in international law, do these groups have this right? Is this new call a result of the dissolution of imperial powers, neo-decolonization or just increased international consciousness on the subject matter? How should the intelligentsia and the international community approach this issue in our modern-day? History has shown that self-determination movements often resort to violence to achieve targeted aims and objectives. The origins of these movements have continued to be a subject of debate within international relations and international law as well; however, the outside world continues to pay little attention to this thorny matter until conflict breaks out, leaving similarly ambitious groups with the mindset that violence is the only practical course of action. The issue of self-determination is often assessed from a formal, legalistic viewpoint. While most knowledgeable actors continue to address the issue mildly, it should be known that in practicality, the issue is far trickier than it looks on paper. Self-determination encompasses so many issues—including individual and minority rights, autonomy, state repression, territorial integrity, state sovereignty, and claims to independence, to name but a few—the intelligentsia and the international community should see this issue as one that cannot be treated lightly, at least for the sake of protecting lives and property. This paper extensively discusses the concept of statehood in international law, including the issue of state-building and the criteria for the rise of a state established in law. It further examines and interrogates the Montevideo Convention; also, this work explores the recognition of statehood in its classical and modern understanding as it relates to prevailing legal theories.


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