Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies


The following discussion briefly explores alternative concepts of self-determination. The attached table is an effort to facilitate preliminary research into the textual sources for self-determination in international law. As textual sources are only one means of determining the content of international law, it is important to examine alternate sources such as state practice in order to develop a full picture of the international legal 'right' to self-determination. It is important to note that the goal of self-determination is not necessarily the creation of a new state. Self-determination can take a range of forms, from education guarantees for linguistic minorities to full sovereignty. Ultimately, it is simply the right of a people to determine their future. This begs the question: who is the 'self', or indeed what constitutes a 'peoples'? The authors have brought together four conceptual approaches in which legal claims to self-determination may be grounded. These approaches, or schools, are as follows: 1. Colonial School; 2. Historical School; 3. Human Rights School; and 4. Political School. The basis and scope for each school is reducible to the definition of 'peoples' relied upon by each school in formulating legal claims to self-determination. Under the colonial school, self-determination is limited to 'peoples' under colonial rule (this is the traditional approach to self-determination). The historical school considers 'peoples' as any historical collectivity whether under formal colonial rule or not. The human rights school defines 'peoples' as oppressed collectivities. The political school (or anti-school) grants self-determination to 'peoples' according to the dictates of realpolitik.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Included in

Law Commons