Secession and Self-Determination

  • Robert MuharremiEmail author
  • Nita Dragusha
Living reference work entry


Nations, defined as groups that share a sense of identity, based on ethnic, religious, or cultural characteristics, tend toward the creation of their own state as a means to achieve full self-determination and to improve their chances of survival in the international system (Mearsheimer 2018). This is particularly relevant for minorities, which live in a state that is dominated by an ethnically, religiously, or culturally different majority. Creating their own state by secession from the existing state and by referring to the right of self-determination as a justification for the secession “offers itself naturally as a way of emerging from the shadow and the threat of the majority” (Welhengama and Pillay 2013).

Secessionist movements are very often resisted by the existing state that relies on the international law principles of state sovereignty and territorial integrity to oppose such secession. The result can be armed conflict or protracted political stalemates in the...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Anderson, G. (2013). Secession in International Law and Relations: What Are We Talking About? In L.A. Loyola (Ed) International and Comparative Law Review, 35, 343–388.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, G. (2016). Unilateral non-colonial secession and internal self-determination: right of newly seceded peoples to democracy. Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, 34(1), 1–64.Google Scholar
  3. Bereketeab, R. (2014). Self-determination and secession – African challenges. In R. Bereketeab (Ed.), Self-determination and secession: The post-colonial state (pp. 3–19). New York City: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brilmayer, L. (1991). Secession and self-determination: A territorial interpretation. Yale Journal of International Law, 16, 177–202.Google Scholar
  5. Cassese, A. (2005). International law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Catala, A. (2013). Remedial theories of secession and territorial justification. Journal of Social Philosophy, 44(1), 74–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Christakis, T. (2011). The ICJ advisory opinion on Kosovo: Has international law something to say about secession? Leiden Journal of International Law, 24, 73–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Coggins, B. (2011). Friends in high places: International politics and the emergence of states from secessionism. International Organization, 65(3), 433–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crawford, J. (2006). The creation of states in international law. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  10. Crawford, J. (2012). Brownlie’s principles of public international law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Driest, S. (2015). Crimea’s separation from Ukraine: An analysis of the right to self-determination and (remedial) secession in international law. Netherlands International Law Review, 62, 329–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Frankel, L. M. (1992). International law of secession: New rules for new era. Houston Journal of International Law, 14(3), 521–564.Google Scholar
  13. Freeman, M. (1999). The right to self-determination in international politics: Six theories in search of a policy. Review of International Studies, 25, 355–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Griffiths, R. (2014). The future of self-determination and territorial integrity in the Asian century. The Pacific Review, 27(3), 457–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hannum, H. (1996). Autonomy, sovereignty, and self-determination: The accommodation of conflicting rights.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. International Court of Justice. (2010). Advisory Opinion of 22 July 2010 on Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo.Google Scholar
  17. Kapustin, A. (2015). Crimea’s self-determination in the light of contemporary international law. Heidelberg Journal of International Law, 75, 101–118.Google Scholar
  18. Kissinger, H. (1994). Diplomacy. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.Google Scholar
  19. Klabbers, J. (2019). Shrinking self-determination: The Chagos opinion of the international court of justice. ESIL Reflections, 8(2), 1–9.Google Scholar
  20. Lee, H. (2012). The identity argument for national self-determination. Public Affairs Quarterly, 26(2), 123–139.Google Scholar
  21. McCorquodale, R. (2018). Group rights. In D. Moeckli, S. Shah, & S. Sivakumaran (Eds.), International human rights law (pp. 344–365). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Mearsheimer, J. (2018). The great delusion. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Meester, D. (2010). The International Court of Justice’s Kosovo case: Assessing the current state of international legal opinion on remedial secession. The Canadian Yearbook of International Law, 48, 215–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Moore, M. (1997). On national self-determination. Political Studies, 45, 900–913.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pellet, A. (1992). The opinions of the Badinter arbitration committee: A second breath for the self-determination of peoples. European Journal of International Law, 3, 178–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Portman, R. (2010). Legal personality in international law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Seshagiri, L. (2010). Democratic disobedience: Reconceiving self-determination and secession at international law. Harvard International Law Journal, 51(2), 553–598.Google Scholar
  28. Sterio, M. (2010). On the right to external self-determination: Selfistans, secession, and the great powers’ rule. Minnesota Journal of International Law, 19(1), 137–176.Google Scholar
  29. Sterio, M. (2015). Self-determination and secession under international law: The new framework. ILSA Journal of International and Comparative Law, 21(2), 293–306.Google Scholar
  30. Velasco, Z. A. (2014). Self-determination and secession: Human rights-based conflict resolution. International Community Law Review, 16(1), 75–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Weitz, E. (2015). Self-determination: How a German Enlightenment idea became a slogan of national liberation and a human right. American Historical Review, 120(2), 462–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Welhengama, G., & Pillay, N. (2013). Minorities’ claim to secession by virtue of the right to self-determination: Asian perspectives with special reference to Kosovo and Sri Lanka. Nordic Journal of International Law, 82, 249–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Weller, M. (2009). Settling self-determination conflicts: Recent developments. The European Journal of International Law, 20(1), 111–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wilde, R. (2011). Self-determination, secession, and dispute settlement after the Kosovo advisory opinion. Leiden Journal of International Law, 24, 149–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Public Policy and GovernanceRochester Institute of Technology – Kosovo CampusPrishtinaKosovo
  2. 2.University of PrishtinaPrishtinaKosovo

Section editors and affiliations

  • Sandra Pogodda
  • Gëzim Visoka
    • 1
  • Oliver Richmond
    • 2
  1. 1.Dublin City UniversityDublinIreland
  2. 2.The University of ManchesterManchesterUK