The right to self-determination has become one of the most complex issues for U.S. foreign policymakers and the international community at large.

The right to self-determination has become one of the most complex issues for U.S. foreign policymakers and the international community at large. Confusion over the issue stems not so much from whether there exists a right to self-determination, which is included in many international human rights documents, but from the failure of those documents to define exactly who is entitled to claim this right—a group, a people, or a nation—and what exactly the right confers. At the same time, the international system, particularly in the post–World War II era, has steadfastly defended the inviolability of existing nation-states' borders, regardless of how and when they were determined.

Patricia Carley was a program officer for the former Soviet Union and Turkey at the Institute, where she also worked on broader issues such as the OSCE and Western relations with the Islamic world. She is the author of several Institute publications, including The War in Tajikistan Three Years On, Turkey's Role in the Middle East: A Conference Report and the Future of the CSCE.

Latest Publications

Zambia’s New Leadership and the Stakes for Africa

Friday, September 24, 2021

By: USIP Staff

Weeks after his election to lead his southern African nation, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema vowed to reverse his country’s recent erosion of democracy and good governance, and to stabilize an economy in recession—all despite the burdens of COVID, environmental shocks, and a dangerous “mountain” of debt accumulated in recent years.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Prioritize Building Resilience at this Year’s U.N. General Assembly

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

By: Corinne Graff, Ph.D.

World leaders are gathering in New York this week for the 2021 U.N. General Assembly against a backdrop of unprecedented global crises, including the continued spread of COVID-19 due to lack of access to vaccines; a growing hunger crisis as more people around the world die every day from starvation than from COVID-19; and the fact that roughly one percent of the world’s entire population — or one in every 97 people — is now forcibly displaced. These humanitarian challenges are compounded by a generational climate crisis and rising tensions with Russia and China that will need to be carefully managed. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

China and the U.S. Exit from Afghanistan: Not a Zero-Sum Outcome

China and the U.S. Exit from Afghanistan: Not a Zero-Sum Outcome

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

By: Andrew Scobell, Ph.D.

It has become fashionable to characterize recent events in Afghanistan as a loss for the United States and a win for China. This zero-sum interpretation framed in the narrow context of U.S.-China relations is too simplistic and off the mark. The reality is far more complex and nuanced. The end of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the collapse of that country’s pro-Western government do not automatically translate into significant Chinese gains, nor do they trigger a swift Beijing swoop to fill the vacuum in Kabul left by Washington.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

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