The Fragmentation of Geopolitical Space: What Secessionist Movements Mean to the Present-Day State System
36 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2011 Last revised: 25 Nov 2012
Date Written: February 12, 2011
The last century witnessed an extraordinary multiplication of sovereign states. Epochal changes such as the dissolution of 20th century empires, the decolonization process, and the end of the Cold War determined the division of the world landscape into nearly two hundred separate polities. But the trend to geopolitical fragmentation still has momentum: partially recognized and de facto states constitute a big challenge to the international order, while a conspicuous number of active secessionist projects continue to threaten the territorial integrity of many countries. This article reviews the complex questions that the trend to geopolitical fragmentation is posing to global society, reviewing a number of normative secession theories and evidencing in them a more hospitable approach to new state formation. Given the current regime of sovereign states, framing a global approach to the problems posed by separatist groups seems almost inconceivable; for the time being, it seems likely instead that the international community will continue accepting new states on a case-by-case basis, often in response to Great Power interests or non-negotiable nationalist projects, without advancing international law on state creation or global standards of statehood as a whole. This article provides support for the claim that adopting a global perspective and more functional attitudes towards geopolitical restructuring are paramount for effectively dealing with violence deriving from the clash of nationalist separatist drives and state-centric conservatism.
Keywords: Geopolitics, Secession, Separatism, State Theory, International Law, Nationalism, Self-Determination, Minority Rights
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