Independence Referendums in International Law
Jure Vidmar, Sarah McGibbon, Lea Raible (eds), Research Handbook on Secession, 2020, Edward Elgar, Forthcoming
18 Pages Posted: 18 May 2020
Date Written: April 21, 2020
The rights to self-determination and political participation imply that important decisions concerning a people’s political, economic, social and cultural destiny must be taken in a democratic procedure. The most appropriate procedure for determining whether or not to secede from an existing state and create a new state is by holding a referendum. Accordingly, apart from exceptional cases, an independence referendum has become a necessary condition for achieving statehood. However, international recognition will only follow if the referendum is conducted in accordance with certain international standards: The referendum needs to be held in a peaceful environment, civil and political rights must be effectively protected, voter qualification must be based on reasonable criteria, the question must be clear, it should be monitored by international observers etc. The international legal framework on independence referendums thus appears as a stabilising factor: rather than promoting changes of sovereignty over territory, it makes them more difficult.
Keywords: secession, independence, international law, self-determination, political participation, referendum, direct democracy
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation