Self-Determination, Dissent, and the Problem of Population Transfers
The Theory of Self-Determination (ASIL Studies in International Law) , Fernando R. Tesón, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2016
22 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2015 Last revised: 14 Jul 2016
Date Written: March 11, 2015
Many of the major self-determination movements of the 20th and early 21st Centuries did not go smoothly, but resulted in forced or semi-forced transfers of groups of people from one country to another. Forced population transfers are not, of course, supported by major theorists of self-determination and secession. However, the problems that make population transfers extremely common in actual cases of self-determination and secession, are not squarely faced in many theories of self-determination. And, I shall argue, certain leading theories of self-determination and secession would make population transfers almost inevitable in practice, even if not called for or sanctioned in theory. This is a major stumbling block for any attempt to move from an abstract account of self-determination towards a working theory. In this paper I take a first step towards addressing this problem. I shall show how any approach to dealing with secession, including “primary rights” accounts, “remedial rights only” accounts, and even “consensual” accounts, must be able to deal with the inevitable problem of population transfers, if it is to be a complete and plausible theory. I shall also show how population transfers, to the extent that we can always expect them to take place, can be made as just as possible, in light of any approach to the problem of secession. I will not here attempt to adjudicate between different approaches to secession and self-determination. To that extent, my argument may be seen as a friendly addition to all of the above approaches, showing how they may try to meet an objection which they have not yet faced.
Keywords: self-determination, secession, population transfers, forced migration, international law, political philosophy, international justice, nationalism
JEL Classification: F22, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation