Philosophy Social Aspects

Creating New States by Aleksandar Pavkovic with Peter Radan

By Aleksandar Pavkovic with Peter Radan

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In their view, as the borders of the European overseas colonies determined who the holder of the right of self-determination is in each colony, so the borders of a federal unit determined who the people entitled to the right of self-determination within that federal unit is. According to the Badinter Commission, like the European colonial powers in the nineteenth century, the founders of federal states (for example, the Communist leaders of the USSR and SFRY) by creating the borders of the federal units determined who the holder of the right of self-determination in these units is.

In Part I we shall discuss four cases of secession which generated violent conflict and, by comparing them to four cases which did not, we shall attempt to identify at least some of the causes of violent conflict in the former cases. Even before any attempts at secession were made in these four cases, secessionist groups or parties publicly aired their grievances against the host state or majority population, the redress of which, they argued, required the creation of a separate state. In all of these cases, individuals and groups disagreed over the need for a new state: some argued that a new state was necessary for their group’s survival and/or prosperity and that their group was entitled to have it, while others argued that the very same state threatened their group’s existence and created avoidable conflict among different national groups.

Social science theories of secession may be of some use to the policy makers if these theories can predict whether or not an attempt at secession will be made in a particular region and how a particular secession movement will develop. But policy makers and their advisers also need to justify their policies – for example, secessionist leaders need to justify their attempts to secede, the host state policy makers need to justify their policies towards secessionist movements and policy makers in other states need to justify their policies towards both secessionist movements and their host states.

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