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International Law

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Day one

The essay question reads:  Explain and comment on the proposition that the doctrine of right of self-determination of peoples includes the legal entitlement to democratic governance.

I spend time pondering and brainstorming on the question and thinking of how I am going to handle the essay question. The key words are: explain, comment, doctrine of right of self-determination, of peoples, and legal entitlement to democratic governance. I need to understand the meanings of those units in order to understand the question and then move forward to analyzing the phrases and tying them together to generate meaning.

Understanding the Question

To explain and comment means that I will do a research and get background information on the kinds of data so far developed on the subject and then comment, that is, give my point of view on the information available and also digress on the relevance and progress attained in the development.

I will research on the kind of information that is relevant to the study in the school library and on the internet.

The phrase ‘doctrine of right of self-determination’ is a developed concept and not just a string of words so what I will be looking for is an already existing proposition that has been developed over the years. This is the nucleus of the essay because it is the central thematic concern in the essay but it does not stand alone.

The second phrase is the words “of peoples” which means that a certain group of people is in question here. It is not just anybody or any group that can be entitled to the right of self-determination. There seems to be a criteria or standard that creates grounds for this ‘doctrine of right of self-determination’ to take place. This will also be part of the research.

The third phrase is the “legal entitlement to democratic governance’ which is the subordinating and guiding clause to the main phrase above that is ‘doctrine of right of self-determination’. This phrase is important since it is the one that seems to specify the reach of the essay so that all information will be geared towards expounding on this topical issue. 

Ultimately, the question is concerned with the principle of democracy as a legitimate consideration in the right of self-determination. The issues surrounding democracy are a key highlight in the essay. Of importance will be the response of the international community on democratic governance around the world.

After reflecting on this question I will review this part later in order to see if there is anything I am missing from the question.

Day Two

Upon reflecting on the gist of the work ahead today I decided to take one more look on the question and what it entails in order to develop a few guiding questions for the research on my essay.

The Guiding questions I am going to use are:

a) What are the sources of the doctrine of right of self-determination?

b) What are the conditions for right of self-determination?

c) How did the doctrine of self-determination develop?

d) How did democracy come to be a critical part of right of self-determination in the course of the doctrine’s development?

e) What are the current trends in the development of democracy in the right of self-determination?

In using this guideline, I have developed an annotation of sources that will be critical in carrying out the task at hand. Below are the sources that I will use.

Barnes Samuel H., (2001) “The contribution of Democracy to Rebuilding Post-conflict Societies,” American Journal of International Law, Vol. 95 p86-101

The article is a great source in addressing the key issues underlying conflict-laced countries that are still struggling with democracy in self-governance. It gives latent examples and structured procedures of intervention without infringing on a country’s right of self-determination.

 Brownlie Ian, (2008) “Principles of public international law.” Oxford Printing Press, London.

The book has given information on the question of conditions for self-determination, specifying that a state, which is entitled to self-determination, has certain constituent requirements that must be met for it to be considered a state.

Burchill Richard, (2006). “Democracy and international Law” Aldershot: Ashgate.

The book has elaborations of the interaction between democracy and international law and the extent to which democracy has helped shape International Law.

Higgins Rosalyn, (1994) “Problems and Process: International Law and How We Use it” Clarendon, oxford. Chapter 7

Higgins in her book has provided and highlighted the challenges that international law experiences in mediating between warring nations and especially on issues of policy on non-interference and protection of basic human rights by international community.

Fox Gregory H and Roth Brad R, (2000) “Democratic Governance and International Law” Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

This book is a collection of viewpoints as put forward by several authors on international law. It is a great summary in reconciling thoughts on the different views on democracy as a key ingredient in the right of self-determination.

Franck Thomas M, (1992) “The emerging Right to Democratic Governance,” American Journal of International Law, Vol. 86 46-91

Franck discusses the current trends in democratic governance and highlights the emerging legitimacy of democracy on the right of self-determination.

The article analyses a chain of stakeholders who initiate a chain reaction from the voter to the top organs of law making to the intent that democracy has become that inviolable right in self-determination. 

Franck Thomas M, (1996) “Clan and Superclan: Loyalty, Identity and community in law and practice”, American Journal of International Law, Vol. 90 359-383.

The article focuses on the key players in a democratic chart and then goes ahead to show the patterns within a state that eventually tie the political structure together. The article once again shows the roots of democracy from the bottom at the voter level.

Marks Susan, (2000) “The Riddle of All Constitutions: International Law, Democracy and the Critique of Ideology” Oxford University Press, Oxford.

The book shares the different kinds and levels on democracy that are seen territorially and how these affect the general norm of political trade in the international community. The book also shows the kinds of multilateral and bilateral agreements between the international community and the less democratic countries in order to help these countries push for democracy.

Pavkovic Aleksandar and Radan Peter, (2003) “In Pursuit of Sovereignty and Self-determination: Peoples, States and Secession in the International Order,” Macquerie University Law Journal, 1.

The Journal takes a critical look at the current trends on the international law development as well as highlights from history and how the law has assessed and dealt with issues of session as a practice in democracy.

Smith Daniel (1997) “Self-Determination in Tibet: The Politics of Remedies” Écritique No. 2 Canonymous Press, vol. 2

This article has focused on the general discourse of self-determination and of particular interest is the case of Tibet and how their secession is taking shape. The article gives a good insight in the development of International law on a practical scale of application on Tibet case.

In addition to the sources above, the United Nations General Assembly Resolutions (UNGA) on self-determination will be studied as well. These sources include UNGA 1514, 1541 and 2625.

Western Sahara will be considered as a case study of countries under unresolved decolonization.

Day Three

I have started the research and today I was basically reading and highlighting key points on the various sources. I have been underlining and deducing points as I go on so that I will not struggle when doing the final write up. Here are some of the points I have been gathering from the sources used:

a) A community must occupy space and time for a continuous period of time, relatively permanent political institutions with roles that serve the community; and the community’s loyalty must shift from individuals to the values, norms of the society as an emerging state. (Smith, 1997)

b) State as an entity with permanent population, government, territory with boundaries within which it can exercise her internal and external sovereignty (Brownlie, 2008)

c)  “There is no legal right of secession where there is a representative Government.” (Higgins, 1997)

d) Democracy has become a global entitlement promoted and protected by collective international processes. (Franck, 1997)

e) “Only after the Cold War did international law dare to address the question of democracy; it had previously generally been considered to be a ‘domestic’ issue and thus not subject to international scrutiny. The events of 1989–1991 led to the embrace of democracy in many countries.” (Burchill, 2006)

To this day’s end, the development of the research has been to establish grounds for self-determination and an inside look into the histories surrounding the development of the international law on these matters.

At this point I am doing write ups that I will use for final compilation.

Day Four

The research has evolved to giving shape to the discussion and debates of the international response on the democracy of states.

Here are some of the points I gathered today:

f) Western countries, which have a much more mature democracy, still struggle with internal democratic arrangements. (Fox and Roth, 2000 p.545)

g) Democracy in some other instances has been held as a condition that is part of a country’s territorial sovereignty.(Marks, 2000)

h) The responsibility of the international community is to explore the possibility of power sharing in cases of insoluble or extreme conflicts. (Barnes, 2001)

i) Subgroups seeking self-rule can only do so with the consent of the majority of the mother state in a referendum (Pavkovic & Radan, 2003)

j) The principle of uti possidetis juris mandated that the borders of former colonial entities became international borders of the state following decolonization.” (Pavkovic & Radan, 2003)

The research today focused on the extent to which democracy is a key component in self-determination and how the international community has influenced the process of democracy in self-determination. Even for the international community, the challenge is to influence democracy without vetoing the process and thus threaten the sovereignties it is bound to preserve and protect.    

I have finally come up with the information I needed for the research and I have done a final write up minus the conclusion.

Day Five

On this day I have completed the essay by writing a conclusion which is basically a summary of the findings and the state of democracy in history, in practice and the current trends that have emerged in the development of self-determination. I also crosschecked to see if I have answered all the questions I set out to answer and I am satisfied that I have hit the target.


a) In future, I will apply the process as it has been very helpful and it has really kept me on toes in order to work and fulfill all the time schedules I had in mind.

b) I will need to improve on strictly following the time schedule I have set out and also reduce the distractions that sometimes made me over extend my research periods.

c) I will need to develop a more flexible timetable so that I can factor in hours of compensation in case of emergencies

d) I will spread the part of constant review to be incorporated as a daily practice and not merely as an appendage at the end of the research period since this was a tougher task to do at the end.

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