The Case of Self Determination in the 21st Century

The Society's 114th Annual Meeting—and first Virtual Annual Meeting—took place June 25–26, 2020. The 2020 Annual Meeting theme, "The Promise of International Law," was an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of international law, while reaffirming our commitment to achieving its promise of a more just and peaceful world.

Sponsored by the World Justice Project

Around the world, communities have failed to fully realize their right to self-determination, despite the recognition of that right by international courts and international institutions. Sub-state political entities that have sought to assert their right to self-determination through independence referenda have faced political reprisals and charges of illegal secession. In the recent Chagos Advisory Opinion, the International Court of Justice shed light on the nature and right of self-determination in the context of decolonization. This session will address self-determination in the 21st Century in cases of unfinished decolonization and independent statehood movements. Using the Chagos Advisory Opinion (ICJ), Kosovo Advisory Opinion (ICJ), and Quebec opinion (Canada) as a legal framework, this panel will take place in an “oral argument” format, where a judge will pose questions to attorneys representing communities who are seeking to assert their right to self-determination and attorneys representing states that are opposed to those efforts. The judge will hear oral argument from litigants debating self-determination claims in two or more cases, such as the Comoros Islands vs. France over Mayotte, the Sahrawis of Western Sahara vs. Morocco, and/or the Kurdish Region vs. Iraq. After oral argument, time will be reserved for questions from the audience, acting as part of the judicial panel. Finally, the audience will have the opportunity to vote on the separate cases.

Mamadou Hébié, International Court of Justice
James Kateka, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
Milena Sterio, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law (Moderator)
Nawi Ukabiala, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
Marc Weller, University of Cambridge Faculty of Law
(Speaker organizations are shown as of June 2020)