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Research in Progress Seminar (RIPS)

Dr. Umut Özsu, Associate Professor, Carleton University, October 28 - Completing Humanity: State Power, Self-Determination, and the Limits of the International Law of Decolonization

Oct 20, 2020

The Department of Political Science presents:

A Research in Progress Seminar Talk 2020

Who: Dr. Umut Özsu
Where: Online-Zoom Meeting
When: Wednesday, October 28, 1pm-2:20pm

Completing Humanity: State Power, Self-Determination, and the Limits of the International Law of Decolonization

When the UN General Assembly adopted the "Friendly Relations Declaration" in October 1970, it was hailed by many as the high-water mark of socialist and non-aligned efforts to win recognition for a strong right to self-determination during the decades of decolonization that followed the Second World War. On the one hand, the declaration framed self-determination as a right of peoples to be free of domination and exploitation, in the form of a "sovereign and independent state", integration into such a state, or some other freely chosen form of autonomy or association. On the other hand, in an effort to stabilize changing distributions of sovereign power and consolidate newly independent states, it stipulated that this right could be invoked by secessionist movements only under highly exceptional circumstances. Inasmuch as its commitment to eliminating formal and informal colonialism was predicated upon a prior commitment to the structural integrity of the state system, the Friendly Relations Declaration thus showcased the degree to which international law constrained the more ambitious modes of decolonization. Self-determination both was and was not to be universal, in law no less than in fact.

Umut Özsu is Associate Professor of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University. He is the author of Formalizing Displacement: International Law and Population Transfers (OUP, 2015), and is currently completing his second book, entitled Completing Humanity: The International Law of Decolonization, 1960--1982 and forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.