Right to Self-Determination in International Law: Naturalist-Positivist Tension

  • Arjun Singh Didyala
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  • Arjun Singh Didyala

    Student at Jindal Global Law School, O.P Jindal University, India

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The right to self-determination is a settled legal principle in International Law. Having been enshrined in the charter of The United Nations and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Self-determination enjoys wide international legal notoriety. Despite extensive codification, the right has faced inconsistent recognition by member states. Since its inception, the claim has suffered from an identity crisis. It has been codified as a collective right, a right of “people” to govern themselves, something legal in nature gaining its validity from social contract. On the other hand, legal scholars have argued that the right to self-determination is individualistic, part of human nature, a right that does not gain its legitimacy from collective action but is something that is exercised collectively. The topic has left naturalist and positivist legal jurists of international law in a never-ending match of ping-pong, where both schools of thought have convincing arguments for their cause. This paper aims to critically examine the arguments that have been put forth by both schools of thought on the subject matter of self-determination. The paper in its first part will try to trace the origins of the right to self-determination and review how consistent the naturalist and positivist understandings are of the right in relation to situations where the right has been classically exercised. The second part of this paper will explore the right to self-determination as a part of customary international law and determine if the arguments made by the two schools are consistent with the principles of interpretation that are well settled on matters of customary international law. The third and final part of this paper will have concluding arguments and observations that were a result of the author's engagement with the topic at hand




International Journal of Legal Science and Innovation, Volume 6, Issue 3, Page 1261 - 1267

DOI: https://doij.org/10.10000/IJLSI.112028

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