According to Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points and the United Nations, Self-determination is the belief that all nations ‘people’ have the right to choose their own political status and to determine their form of economic, cultural and social development. The League of Nations, and later the United Nations codified this belief in their declarations, international laws and covenants. The United Nations’ committee, International Meeting of Experts on Further Study of the Concept of Rights of Peoples, met in 1989 to discuss the criteria for defining the people ‘nation’. The criteria are as follows: i) a common historical tradition; ii) racial or ethnic identity; iii) cultural homogeneity; iv) linguistic unity; v) religious or ideological affinity; vi) territorial connection and vii) common economic life.
This article provides a list of top 10 nations (people) who are not self-determining. For various reasons the United Nations has not yet recognized their independence. Before, I present the list it is essential that we differentiate between the nation and the state. A nation is a group of people living within a territory. They along with their government run the state. Think of a nation as the driver and the state as the car. The driver will always control the car.
1. French-Canadians in Quebec, Canada:
1968 saw a growing sentiment amongst French-Canadians in Quebec to become independent from the rest of Canada. Tensions between the Anglophone and Francophone populations existed before the Canadian Confederation 1867. Quebeckers never felt their interests were being heard and voiced in Canada. They thus held a referendum in 1980 to discuss Quebec’s secession from the country. The vote swayed towards the No (59.56%) by margin of 15.11%. Tensions did not lessen as the repatriation of the Canadian constitution was being discussed. Quebec was the only province who rejected the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it felt it limited their choice of going to an English (the business language) school. Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords were held in late 1980s and 1990s to include the French Canadians in Quebec accept the constitution. The failed accords led to the second referendum which failed by a small margin (49.42% Yes; 50.58% No).
2. Chechens in Chechnya:
Persecution and maltreatment of Chechens throughout history has led to Chechen’s quest to secede from Russia. During the Stalin era, Chechens were deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia and were erased from Russian literature and history. Many of them only returned when Stalin died in 1953.
Chechens have fought for independence since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. They declared themselves an independent state in 1991, which is not recognized by the International Community. Since 1994, they have participated in numerous wars against Russia and have resorted to terrorism to secede. The creation of Kosovo, as a nation-state, spurred their sentiments and grievances.
3. Basque Country:
Basque Region is a political region which is advocating for political autonomy and full independence from Spain and France. Young Basque nationalists founded ETA, a movement which adopted a Marxist revolutionary doctrine. The group desires to create an independent Basque country through violence and extortion. The struggle is still active despite their rights to autonomy being restored in 1978. They manage their own police and financial services. A ceasefire has been issued in 2011, which hopefully will not be broken.
4. Tamil People in Sri Lanka:
The Tamils who presently live in Sri Lanka aspire to breakaway and to create an independent nation-state called Tamil Eelam. Tamil Eelam is not recognized by any state nor country at this moment. Many militant groups have since emerged, especially the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). They are unsatisfied with the laws the Sinhalese (the group in power) has placed over Sri Lanka. Immediately after independence, the Tamil’s citizenship rights as well as rights to speaking their own language were taken away. Despite self-declaration and having own policies and police force, the LTTE have resorted to terrorism to obtain independence. They have successfully assassination two world leaders and detonated destructive suicide bombers.
5. Ossetians in South Ossetia:
With the fall of the Soviet Union, came the declaration of independences by many former Soviet states. South Ossetia was no exception and it declared its independence from the Georgia (Soviet Union state) in 1990. The Georgians responded poorly to this by taking away Ossetians’ autonomy and using military force to gain control. Two conflicts have taken place since then, most notably in 2008. In the 2008 war, Russia took defacto control of the region. There is still no word as to whether South Ossetia will eventually become independent.
6. Gagauz in Gagauzia:
Gagauz people are Seljuq Turks who occupy an autonomous region in Moldova. During the referendum of 1991, they voted to keep the Soviet Union. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union came Gagauz declaration of independence in August of 1991. This independence was not recognized by the international community and the Gagauzian region was incorporated into the Republic of Moldova. Under the auspices of the government of Moldova, Gagauzia was given full autonomy but not independence in 1994. There is a condition that stipulates that if Moldova and Romania unite, the nation of Gagauzia will become ‘self-determining”.
The term Bangsamoro refers to the native population who live on the Mindanao and other nearby islands in the Philippines. There are two nationalist movements in Bangsamora: Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro Liberation Nationalist Front. They both seek to become independent from the Philippines. They have resorted to kidnapping and violence as a means for liberation. This has put a cessation to Philippines’ offer of independence in 2007. In 2010, Philippines is now offering autonomy and a situation similar to the United States states.
8. Sahrawi in Western Sahara:
The Western Sahara region is an internationally disputed region in Africa. Although, the United Nations declared it to be a non-governing territory, Morocco still has control over some of the territory. In 1976, the military group, Polisario Front, declared the region independent and named it the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Many nations, including Morocco, do not recognize it or the Western Sahara region as being independent. In the meantime, the Sahrawi people are oppressed, detained and kicked out of their lands while under the control of Morocco. There is no clear resolution as to whether the Sahrawi will become independent altogether and would be recognized. There are still 160,000 Sahrawi displaced refugees.
9. Maori in New Zealand:
South Island nationalism has existed for nearly a century and a half. Julius Vogel, a premier in New Zealand, was an advocate for the separation of North and South Islands of New Zealand. The proposed independence under the name New Munster would give Maori native tribes the right to self-govern. This eventually led to the moving of the capital from Auckland to Wellington in 1865.
There are various obstacles which restrain the South Island from becoming independent. Many Maori natives are not wealthy and live short lives. The economics in the region is also poor. It is thus uncertain whether independence will be achieved in full.
10. Tibetans in Tibet:
The United Nations does not doubt that Tibetans are a distinct people with a distinct language. They have been continuously oppressed by the Chinese government since occupation in 1949. Since then the Chinese government has enacted policies which sought to destroy Tibetan identity. The Chinese government displaced many Tibetans from their homes as well. At this moment, the United Nations is refusing to take action against China. It feels Tibet is not independent and is economically dependent on China foremost. Its remote location also creates a problem for its self-determination process.
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. “Conference Report.” UNPO, 25 Mar. 1996. Web. 3 Aug. 2011. <http://Unrepresented Nations and Peoples>.