Secession from Failed States: Ethical and Practical Issues with Current Approaches

2018-01-31T15:04:12Z (GMT) by Edmund Arthur Brown
The thesis examines two threats to sovereignty: secession and state failure. It focuses on how the secession from failed states is approached, with particular concern for recognition and the associated ethical and practical issues. Many issues surrounding secession from failed states originated in the decolonisation era. However, the phenomenon began to become more prominent following the end of the Cold War, in part due to the fall of regimes supported by the superpowers. It is important to engage with these phenomena and their interrelationships as they have implications for sovereignty and state recognition, and in turn for the international system of states. Secession borne through state failure usually involves civil war perpetuated by a lack of central government control. This requires an approach from the international community that will settle grievances and ensure legitimate governance (whether in a unified or secessionist state, or both the secessionist and parent state) without leaving groups vulnerable or setting a precedent of secession that could undermine the international states system. The thesis examines attitudes within the international community towards secession and the concepts behind it and the ethical and practical issues involved, it then analyses the nature of state failure and its relationship with secession. It then examines two case studies of secession from failed states: South Sudan, and Somaliland. Generally, maintaining territorial integrity is favoured over allowing self-determination through recognising secession, except in situations where it is expedient, or a government is undermining its people’s rights (including that of self-determination). In cases of failed states, people’s security and basic human rights are neglected or subject to active persecution. The current anti-secessionist paradigm may therefore need to be altered in the context of state failure, since a failed state has less of a claim to sovereignty due to the absence of a legitimate government.

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