Past event

Conference

Self-Determination and Territorial Integrity: Awkward bed-fellows

Chatham House, London

A conference organized by International Affairs and the BBC's The World Tonight


Attendance at this conference is reserved for Academic Institutional Members of Chatham House.

Self- Determination and Territorial Integrity: Awkward bed-fellows

The proliferation of conflicts and secessionist movements between and within states, most recently emphasized by events in Georgia, has given rise to important questions which the international community urgently needs to address.

Self-determination has played a crucial role in shaping international politics over the centuries. Yet it is also one of the most enduring and intractable issues in international law and politics, closely linked to the status of minorities and at the heart of the debate about nationalism and sovereignty.

This conference will bring together international policy-makers, academic experts and those with first hand experience in Georgia, Abkhazia, Tibet and Xinjiang to discuss these critical issues, including:

  • What is sovereignty and what constitutes a state?
  • How does self-determination fit or contravene the concept of sovereignty and a state's authority to govern its own affairs?
  • What, exactly, constitutes a 'people'? And to what extent does the notion of a 'people' justify calls for unification or succession?
  • Who decides who get self-determination? The role of the international community.
  • Contrary to expectations, globalization may have encouraged nationalist feelings. How might this further develop and what impact might this have on international relations?

Monday 20 April 2009
9.30am - 5.30pm

Session One
Nationalism, Self-determination and Sovereignty: Principle or real-politik?

  • What is sovereignty and what constitutes a state?
  • How is self-determination defined?
  • Which groups can legitimately claim the right to self-determination?
  • What constitutes a 'people'?
  • Is secession justified? And, if so, when?

Session Two
Facts on the Ground

  • China: Tibet and Xinjiang
  • Caucasus: North and South
    - Russian Policy vis-a-vis Abkhazia and South Ossetia
    - Georgia
    - Abkhazia
    - Chechnya

Session Three
The Role of the International Community: Who decides who gets self-determination?

  • What is the role of the UN?
  • What can the international community do?
  • Has the West misjudged the faultline of impending conflict by placing too much emphasis on the threat from non-state organizations such as Al-Qaeda?
  • Should the West concentrate instead on clashes of interest and on holding a balance of interest among the great powers?
  • What are the implications for international relations should Ukraine and Georgia become members of NATO and/or the EU?

Session Four
Implications for the Future of International Relations

  • How will claims for self-determination change and what new multilateral institutions capable of addressing these claims could be established?
  • What are the implications for international relations should Ukraine and Georgia become members of NATO and/or the EU?
  • Given their previous use, and recent revival in Sierra Leone, Kosovo and East Timor, what is the future for the idea of trusteeships by the international community?
  • Contrary to expectations, globalization may have encouraged nationalist feelings. How might this further develop and what impact might this have on international relations?

© The Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2009

This conference will bring together international policy-makers, academic experts and those with first hand experience in Georgia, Abkhazia, Tibet and Xinjiang to discuss these critical issues.

Attendance at this conference is stictly reserved for Academic Institutional Members of Chatham House.