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Home > Main Library > Human Rights > Self-Determination, Right to > Right to self-determination: specialist NGOs and analysis

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Right to self-determination: specialist NGOs and analysis

Websites/Multiple Documents

Title: UNPO
Description/subject: Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003


Individual Documents

Title: Evolving conceptions of group rights in international law
Date of publication: 1987
Description/subject: "...For more than two centuries, European law and philosophy have been preoccupied with liberating individuals from groups, whether it be the family, church, class, or state. Thus while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 acknowledged the psychological significance of social life, refering vaguely to the individual's "duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible," it made no distinction between "community" and "state," and made no provision for the protection of groups other than the state itself. Its vision was restricted to the autonomy of individuals, and for the better part of forty years, every mention of group rights (or individual responsibilities) has invited charges of recidivism and statism. All around us, current events are challenging the usefulness of this traditional view. Linguistic, religious, national and ethnic factors are implicated in the great majority of civil disorders and "bush wars," aggravated by disparities in economic power that often seem as great within states as between North and South. The collective identity and rights of intermediate sized groups — religious congregations, ethnic communities, families — is no longer merely an academic proposition. On the contrary, there is growing awareness that according such groups collective legal identity and rights may be absolutely essential for resolving many of the tensions in today's world without violence. My thesis is simple: recognizing the rights of groups other than States is a basic tool of peace..."
Author/creator: Russel Lawrence Barsh
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Perspectives, Volume 13, Number 1, 1987
Format/size: pdf (107K)
Date of entry/update: 30 August 2009


Title: Human Rights in Karen Areas of Burma
Date of publication: 08 April 1996
Description/subject: Briefing Notes by Kevin Heppner, Karen Human Rights Group April 8, 1996 "...Right now the opposition Karen National Union (KNU) is trying to conduct ceasefire negotiations with the SLORC (State Law & Order Restoration Council) military junta ruling Burma. Though the SLORC claims to be making every effort to bring peace to the country, they are still refusing to even discuss any political or human rights issues, and as a result the talks are making no progress. Many observers feel that the SLORC is not yet interested in a ceasefire, but wants to launch major attacks against the KNU first in order to weaken the KNU so it can be forced to accept what amount to surrender terms. Regardless of the negotiations, SLORC continues to worsen the human rights situation for villagers throughout Karen areas. In some areas, such as Taungoo and Nyaunglebin, systematic abuse of the civilian population is being used partly with the intention of driving the KNU towards a ceasefire deal on very bad terms. However, in most areas the abuses are increasing as a direct result of SLORC moving in and exerting stronger control in areas where KNU forces have been weakened or eliminated. Even in areas close to central Burma which SLORC has always strongly controlled, the human rights situation is worsening because more Army Battalions are being sent in to strengthen control over the civilian population, and because SLORC’s use of forced labour is increasing nationwide. The sections below give summaries of the human rights situation prevailing in some example Karen regions, starting from the northern tip of Karen State and moving southward several hundred kilometres to Tenasserim Division..."
Author/creator: Kevin Heppner
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG Articles & Papers)
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 26 November 2009


Title: International Meeting of Experts on further study of the concept of the rights of peoples
Date of publication: 30 November 1989
Description/subject: FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS... Annex I - List of Participants; Annex II - Agenda..."...5. The right of peoples to self-determination is now well established by international law in the case of colonial peoples, peoples in dependent territories and peoples living under racist regimes. The right of peoples to self-determination in other States may sometimes come into conflict with the principle of State sovereignty which is an important element in the international legal order for safeguarding the right to peace. There is an understandable fear that, understood in one way, the peoples’ right to self-determination might lead to the fragmentation of States, the disruption of settled international boundaries, the breakdown of governmental authority and even manipulation of peoples for the purpose of disrupting the internal affairs of States. It is this concern which makes the further study of the rights of peoples both legitimate and important. Especially important is a further attempt to describe the features of a ‘people’ to whom, by international law, rights such as to existence as a people and to self-determination attach. This subject was the topic of much discussion during the meeting. History teaches that where a State does not have the appropriate legitimacy to represent a people or peoples living within its borders, the right of such peoples to self-determination may assert itself in popular unrest, revolution, or even war..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: UNESCO
Format/size: pdf (831K-reduced version; 1.5MB-original)
Alternate URLs: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0008/000851/085152eo.pdf
Date of entry/update: 19 July 2014


Title: Networks of Noncompliance: Grassroots resistance and sovereignty in militarised Burma
Date of publication: 10 November 2008
Description/subject: "...This paper examines state repression and state-society conflict in Burma through the lens of rural and urban resistance strategies. It finds very well developed 'networks of noncompliance' through which civilians evade and undermine state control over their lives, and that SPDC's brutal tactics represent not control, but a lack of control. Using concrete examples, the paper argues that outside agencies ignore this state-society struggle over sovereignty at their peril: by ignoring the interplay of intervention with local politics and militarisation, claiming a 'humanitarian neutrality' which is impossible in practice, and portraying civilians as helpless pawns, those who intervene and those who document the situation risk undermining the very civilians they wish to help, while facilitating further state repression. It calls for greater honesty and awareness in interventions, combined with greater outside engagement with villagers in their resistance strategies. Only days after this paper was first presented at the Yale University Agrarian Studies Colloquium, some of its cautions about the naïveté of claiming humanitarian neutrality in Burma's politicised and militarised context were tragically realised, when Cyclone Nargis devastated parts of the country and international aid agencies were forced to confront firsthand the SPDC's raw disdain for its own civilian population. Some gave in and chanelled aid through the Burmese military, much of which never reached the target populations...".....Paper for Agrarian Studies Colloquium, April 25, 2008 by Kevin Malseed, Advisor, Karen Human Rights Group Program Fellow in Agrarian Studies, Yale University
Author/creator: Kevin Malseed
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Right Group (KHRG Articles & Papers)
Format/size: pdf (426 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08w3.html
Date of entry/update: 25 November 2009


Title: Self-Determination and Separation
Date of publication: September 1997
Description/subject: "...It should be quite clear that by the end of the 20th Century no reasonably distinctive group of culturally homogenetic people should be unreasonably constrained from pursuing their own cultural, linguistic or religious interests. Yet, pursuit of collective or communal interest is not without conditions. In international law the concept of pursuing a collective interest is known as “self-determination.” The fundamental question one need raise is: does pursuit of self-determination automatically lead to a right of independence? The unequivocal answer is “no.” Indeed, self-determination and secession to achieve independence are not mutually compatible concepts in international law except under circumstances where oppression and persecution or a colonial relationship persists..."
Author/creator: C. Lloyd Brown-John
Language: English, (French abstract)
Source/publisher: Options Politiques, September 1997
Format/size: pdf
Date of entry/update: 21 June 2005


Title: Sovereignty, Survival and Resistance: Contending Perspectives on Karen Internal Displacement in Burma
Date of publication: 01 March 2005
Description/subject: Abstract: "This paper examines the nature and dynamics of Karen internal displacement in Burma through perspectives expressed by villagers themselves, and then contrasts their view of the situation with that projected by international labels and definitions. Initially, it contrasts the prevalent way of viewing internal displacement, which it argues is built upon state sovereignty, and a ‘popular sovereignty’ perspective which attempts to understand displacement by beginning from the viewpoint of local people rather than internationally-accepted definitions. It then looks at Karen internal displacement using the latter perspective and finds it to be an ongoing and sociocultural process rather than a spatial displacement from ‘home’. Though occurring in a context of armed conflict, it is not caused by armed conflict but by state efforts to consolidate territorial sovereignty over civilians who are used to local-level sovereignty and ‘non-state’ identities. Villagers therefore respond with survival strategies which in themselves constitute resistance to state authority. International perspectives, however, ignore this when they apply misleading assumptions and oversimplifications like ‘conflict-induced displacement’ and overdetermine people’s identities with labels like ‘IDP’ which depict people as helpless bystanders to their own context. Such labels ignore people’s capacities to respond to their own situation and the resistance aspect in their responses, and lead to top-down relief-based solutions which favour the repressive state and weaken the position of displaced people themselves. The importance of which epistemology is chosen to understand internal displacement situations is illustrated by the contrast between covert local-level aid to Karen village survival strategies, which is unabashedly political and empowers people in their resistance to state control, versus UNHCR’s agreement with Burma’s military junta to prepare the ground for refugee repatriation, which claims ‘humanitarian neutrality’ but strengthens the state, ignores local perspectives and poses a serious threat to the lives and livelihoods of the internally displaced. The paper concludes that most interventions in internal displacement situations fail to improve conditions for the displaced because they apply internationally-developed labels to people and situations which ignore local perspectives and dynamics, and calls for a new look at ‘internal’ displacement which is much more politically engaged and gives much greater weight to local visions."
Author/creator: Kevin Heppner
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG Working Paper #2005-W1)
Format/size: pdf (727K) 52 pages
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/papers/wp2005w1.htm
Date of entry/update: 19 June 2005


Title: Supporting IDP resistance strategies
Date of publication: 23 April 2008
Description/subject: "...Whether in hiding or living under military control, displaced villagers of Karen State and other areas of rural Burma have shown themselves to be innovative and courageous in responding to and resisting military abuse. They urgently need increased assistance but it is they who should determine the direction of any such intervention. This article, co-authored by two KHRG staff members, appears in issue number 30 of the journal Forced Migration Review (FMR), issued in April 2008 and is available on both the KHRG and FMR websites..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Right Group Articles & Papers (KHRG #2008-W1)
Format/size: pdf (109 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08w1.html
Date of entry/update: 25 November 2009


Title: The 'everyday politics' of IDP protection in Karen State
Date of publication: 20 October 2008
Description/subject: "...While international humanitarian access in Burma has opened up over the past decade and a half, the ongoing debate regarding the appropriate relationship between politics and humanitarian assistance remains unresolved. This debate has become especially limiting in regards to protection measures for internally displaced persons (IDPs) which are increasingly seen to fall within the mandate of humanitarian agencies. Conventional IDP protection frameworks are biased towards a top-down model of politically-averse intervention which marginalizes local initiatives to resist abuse and hinders local control over protection efforts. Yet such local resistance strategies remain the most effective IDP protection measures currently employed in Karen State and other parts of rural Burma. Addressing the protection needs and underlying humanitarian concerns of displaced and potentially displaced people is thus inseparable from engagement with the 'everyday politics' of rural villagers. The present article seeks to challenge conventional notions of IDP protection that prioritize a form of State-centric 'neutrality' and marginalize the 'everyday politics' through which local villagers continue to resist abuse and claim their rights. (This working paper was presented on the panel 'Migration within and out of Burma' as part of the 2008 International Burma Studies Conference in DeKalb, Illinois in October 2008.)..." A working paper by Stephen Hull, Karen Human Rights Group, for presentation on the panel ‘Migration within and out of Burma’ as part of the 2008 International Burma Studies Conference DeKalb, Illinois, October 2008
Author/creator: Stephen Hull
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Right Group (KHRG Articles & Papers)
Format/size: pdf (84 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg2008/khrg08w2.html
Date of entry/update: 25 November 2009


Title: Understanding Self-Determination: the Basics - Applying international law to civil wars and wars of national liberation.
Date of publication: August 2000
Description/subject: Presentation to First International Conference on the Right to Self-Determination, United Nations Geneva August 2000... Basic principles and references; several case studies, including Burma. "The right to self-determination, a fundamental principle of human rights law,(1) is an individual and collective right to "freely determine . . . political status and [to] freely pursue . . . economic, social and cultural development." (2) The principle of self-determination is generally linked to the de-colonization process that took place after the promulgation of the United Nations Charter of 1945. (3) Of course, the obligation to respect the principle of self-determination is a prominent feature of the Charter, appearing, inter alia, in both Preamble to the Charter and in Article 1..."
Author/creator: Karen Parker
Language: English
Source/publisher: United Nations
Alternate URLs: http://www.guidetoaction.org/parker.html
Date of entry/update: 22 November 2010