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Boxing PandoraRethinking Borders, States, and Secession in a Democratic World$
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Timothy William Waters

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300235890

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300235890.001.0001

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The Hardest Part: Creating a Right of Secession

The Hardest Part: Creating a Right of Secession

(p.219) 7 The Hardest Part: Creating a Right of Secession
Boxing Pandora

Timothy William Waters

Yale University Press

This chapter explores strategies to achieve acceptance of a right to secede, whether as a legal rule or as a model for individual states. Secession is a hard sell, and the principal battleground is moral and political. A shift in attitudes must precede the legal project; only then will people see doctrinal arguments lining up and making sense. And, after all, the goal is not a new legal right for its own sake, but a change in how societies and states behave. The chapter then considers why a formal right of secession is implausible, and what that implies about the best strategies to adopt—the narrow but real possibilities that exist. The path is indirect: It relies on transnational diffusion of norms, and for this people can draw lessons from once-improbable projects that have become orthodoxies, such as decolonization and human rights; also, recent secession attempts suggest that constitutional projects could serve as models. The path leads through many small changes, rather than a single, quixotic swerve toward a new legal rule. But because the existing global norm limits the ability to create change within states, people cannot abandon the idea of a new rule: Advocates of secession need a point of triangulation outside the state to advance their cause, and that point will be found in international law.

Keywords:   secession, legal rule, legal project, states, decolonization, human rights, constitutional projects, global norm, international law, legal right

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