Self-Determination for Indigenous Peoples After Kosovo: Translating Self-Determination 'Into Practice' and 'Into Peace'

13 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2007

See all articles by Lorie Graham

Lorie Graham

Suffolk University Law School


Numerous scholars have traced the early origins of self-determination from the Marxist precepts of class liberation to the Wilsonian ideals of democracy and freedom. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the concept of self-determination of all peoples was incorporated as part of international conventional law, but within the statist framework of the United Nations Charter. However, the push for decolonization in the 1960s elevated self-determination to a right and brought to full light the need to contend with its humanistic components. Within the international human rights movement, both the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognize that all peoples have the right of self- determination, which includes the right to freely determine their political status, to freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development, and to freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources. Despite these changes in conventional law, some states have been slow to acknowledge the relevance of this precept beyond the classical colonial context. Yet if we were to consider for a moment how that right has played itself out in practice, most notably in relation to the recent Kosovo conflict, we may once again be evidencing a shift in the conceptual understanding and scope of self-determination sufficient to warrant a re-examination of group claims to that right - in particular indigenous claims. This examination is critical given that the evolution of self-determination as a legal construct is continuously shaped by the realities of practice. Given the focus of today's panel, I will limit my remarks to the United States - led NATO intervention in Kosovo and it relationship to indigenous rights.

Suggested Citation

Graham, Lorie, Self-Determination for Indigenous Peoples After Kosovo: Translating Self-Determination 'Into Practice' and 'Into Peace'. ILSA Journal of International & Comparative Law, Vol. 6, p. 455, 2000, Available at SSRN:

Lorie Graham (Contact Author)

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

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