The right to self-determination is proclaimed by numerous international documents, including the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. However, this right has never been precisely defined and has thus come to denote different things to different peoples and governments at different times.

Report from a Roundtable Held in Conjunction with the Policy Planning Staff of the U.S. Department of State

The right to self-determination is proclaimed by numerous international documents, including the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. However, this right has never been precisely defined and has thus come to denote different things to different peoples and governments at different times. To examine the complex self-determination issue, the United States Institute of Peace, together with the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State, organized a series of meetings to help U.S. policymakers develop a response to self-determination demands. Experts on international law and state sovereignty discussed the right to self-determination—its origins, what it entails, and the nature of international legal language sanctioning and defining it. Focusing on U.S. policy toward actual self-determination and separatist movements and the strategies and options available to the United States to mediate or intercede in them, the Institute of Peace and the State Department's Policy Planning Staff held a second meeting in March 1996 to examine ways that the United States and the international community might work to promote successful outcomes to territorial or separatist disputes, with "successful" broadly defined as nonviolent and nonsecessionist.

Patricia Carley is program officer for the former Soviet Union and Turkey at the Institute, where she also works 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

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Megan Chabalowski on USIP’s Peace Teachers Program

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

By: Megan Chabalowski

Young people are hungry for examples of people working for peace in some of the world’s most violent conflicts, and they are curious about ways they too can make a positive difference. Megan Chabalowski explains how USIP’s Peace Teachers Program provides educators with the in-depth training and resources needed to incorporate peacebuilding into their classrooms and communities.

Education & Training

How Women Are Using Technology to Advance Gender Equality and Peace

How Women Are Using Technology to Advance Gender Equality and Peace

Monday, July 15, 2019

By: Danielle Robertson; Mena Ayazi

From Afghanistan to Sudan, women in conflict areas are increasingly turning to technology to build peace and reduce gender inequality. Just as smart phones and mobile internet facilitate key functions of daily life, they also bring the world women’s voices once confined to the home or marketplace. It is a development with tremendous promise that the international community needs to support by widening access to technology, reducing social barriers to it and providing training that boosts proficiency.

Gender

Scott Smith on the Afghan Peace Process

Scott Smith on the Afghan Peace Process

Thursday, July 11, 2019

By: Scott Smith

Following unprecedented talks between Taliban and Afghan leaders this week, which have provided renewed hope for peace, the Taliban claimed credit for an attack in Ghanzi province. Scott Smith says Afghanistan is now exhibiting “one of the usual paradoxes of this stage of a peace process … where both parties, as they begin to talk more, they begin to fight more.”

A Foot Forward for Peace in Afghanistan?

A Foot Forward for Peace in Afghanistan?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

By: Scott Smith

Taliban and Afghan representatives agreed early this week to a basic, albeit non-binding, roadmap for intra-Afghan negotiations aimed at ending the 18-year war. Since the U.S. resumed direct talks with the Taliban last September, the two sides have focused on the withdrawal of foreign forces and the steps the Taliban will take against terrorists on Afghan soil. Meanwhile, intra-Afghan talks on a political roadmap have yet to get off the ground. After months of seeming stasis, this week’s Doha meeting has injected renewed hope. USIP’s Scott Smith looks at what happened this week, what it means for Afghan women, and the next steps in the peace process.

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Peace Processes

Kathleen Kuehnast on Women in Conflict Zones

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

By: Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.

At a recent USIP event, Nobel laureate Nadia Murad discussed her efforts to end sexual violence and human trafficking—two criminal practices that Kathleen Kuehnast says “have been institutionalized and militarized.” To disincentivize these human rights abuses, Kuehnast says we must reinforce that these heinous but often lucrative practices are “not a livelihood—this is criminality.”

Gender; Human Rights

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