March 12, 2006
THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION
Written statement* submitted by the International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities (IFPRERLOM), a non-governmental organization on the Roster
The Secretary-General has received the following written statement
which is circulated in
accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
[13 February 2006]
* This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).
The right to self-determination, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations (UN) and International Covenants of Human Rights, states that “all peoples have the right of self-determination” and that by virtue of that right they are free to determine their political status to pursue their economic, social and cultural development.1
The UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in June 1993 affirmed the right to self-determination, as part of international law of human rights. Intrinsically, it has been recognized that respect for the right to self-determination is a fundamental condition for the enjoyment of other human rights and fundamental freedoms, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural.
IFPRERLOM, whilst reaffirming the principles enshrined in the UN Charter concerning the sovereign equality, political independence, territorial integrity of States, self-determination of peoples and the non-use of force or threat of use of force in international relations, calls upon the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to pay special attention to cases in which peaceful movements for self-determination are met with suppression and subject to grave human rights violations.
Reaffirming also that by the virtue of the principle of self-determination, all peoples have the right to determine freely their political status and to pursue freely their economic, social and cultural development; IFPRERLOM is concerned at developments that contribute to decreasing instability and threatening peace and security.
IFPRERLOM furthermore requests the UNCHR to consider the adverse effects of lack of international consideration in the case of Somaliland and urges all States to support peaceful initiatives to find a stable solution for peoples denied the right to selfdetermination worldwide.
The Case of Somaliland
The British Somaliland Protectorate became independent on 26 June 19602 and was the first Somali country to become a member of the UN. Shortly thereafter Somaliland and the former Somalia Italiana united to form the Somali Republic. However, the initially hopeful union ended with tragedy culminating in a brutal ten-year civil war lasting until 1991.
Gradually order was restored; refuges started to return and Somaliland embarked on the long process of rebuilding. In 2001 voters opted in “a free and fair election for a new constitution that boldly proclaimed the case for independence”. 3 Meanwhile, “successful, internationally monitored elections” followed to establish Somaliland’s administration.4
Somaliland continues to emphasise its commitment to peace and stability and “the unreserved the respect for unity, and territorial integrity of states, standing neither for cessation, nor for the revision, of Africa’s borders.”5
Despite the lack of rule and troubled fate of Somalia, Somaliland has accomplished extraordinary achievements in a wider environment beset with instability and poverty.
Since 1991 it has carefully started to build and strengthen civil society and put in place structures to govern the territory of the former British protectorate.
Somaliland has accomplished to largely put an end to violence and has established a stable society based on the rule of law, by one commentator labelled “a bulwark against extremist international anarchy and terrorism.” 6 However, the lack of international recognition continues to present hurdles; seriously hindering economic development, discouraging the burgeoning private sector and eroding public trust in the country’s future. Some observers fear this may bring about a political downturn resulting in social anarchy and lawlessness.
On the basis of not being dragged into war and instability with the spill-over effects of regional insecurity, Somaliland has called for international recognition to secure the goals of peace, stability and good governance and further develop existing pillars of stability and democracy.
Fifteen years after Somaliland declared its independence, it has yet to be formally recognised by any country. This has meant that Somaliland cannot sign agreements with multilateral donors such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, and has furthermore prevented meaningful bilateral development assistance from other governments, including substantive loans to rehabilitate a rundown infrastructure.
The UNHCR (2006) reports; “In these circumstances, the principal driving forces of economic and social development are the private sector, the diaspora, civil society organizations, emerging women's groups and authorities such as [that] in “Somaliland”.
Peaceful multi-party elections in “Somaliland” in September 2005, […] demonstrate the determination of the people and their administration to preserve hard-won peace and stability.”7
IFPRERLOM calls upon the Commission on Human Rights and the international community
to aid Somaliland in its efforts for peace and stability and struggle for development and human security; to promote friendly relations between Somaliland and neighbouring areas; and
to provide efforts and assistance to enable conditions to promote and support economic and social and human development.
The Case of Southern Cameroons
Southern Cameroons constituted a UN Trust territory under UK Administration until 1961, when a UN sponsored federal union with La Republique du Cameroun (LRC), a former UN trust territory under French administration, took effect.
The new federal union, the Federal United Cameroun Republic was to become an interparliamentary union of two states with equal status, with each partner in the union maintaining control over its territory, political and administrative system, culture, educational, legal and social systems as inherited at independence. However, in 1972 the UN-sponsored federation was abolished and Southern Cameroons was split into two provinces of LRC and a francophone system of administration instated.
Whereas the principle of self-determination is intrinsically linked with the resolve to put an end to the subjugation of peoples of other cultures, history and distinct territories under some foreign sovereign; decolonisation was gradually endorsed by the international community, with self-determination seen as a right of peoples of all identifiable territory, distinct culture, history and language.
“Independence by joining” through the 1961-union agreement has by some been labelled an imperfect decolonisation process and in effect it ruled out sovereign independence for the territory formerly under British administration. In sponsoring a federal union, the UN adopted Resolution 1608 of April 1961 prescribing a post plebiscite conference to work out modalities for the actualisation of the UN experiment. Regrettably, the UN itself failed to implement this Resolution and no such conference took place.
Subsequently, a people who in 1954 had their own elected government, experienced an undermining of the Anglo-Saxon inheritance, with French being imposed in the educational system and the people of Southern Cameroons seeking international understanding, support, intervention and mediation with regards to the current situation with LRC.
Mindful of wars in Africa and with faith in the UN system in its legitimately engagement in a pacific struggle for effective decolonisation, the CHR is called upon to help foster conditions favourable to democracy and freedom of expression of any group’s, committed to non-violence, claim to determine its own destiny.
IFPRERLOM calls upon the Commission on Human Rights
to call for a renewed invitation by the government of Cameroon to the Special Rapporteur on Torture, to follow-up on the recommendations made by Sir Nigel Rodley in 1999 and to extend invitations to the thematic mandates of; human rights defenders, arbitrary detention; and freedom of expression, to visit and document the current human rights situation for Cameroonians, in particular Southern Cameroons’ human rights and political activists engaged in peaceful activities;
to invite experts to elaborate a working paper on the content, applicability and implementation on the right to self-determination as a contribution to international peace,stability and security; to lead to a possible re-conceptualization of the right to selfdetermination in a broader sense, and reflect how treaty bodies and other UN mechanism can effectively implement this right with a view towards conflict prevention;
to request the UN as a whole to pro-actively engage itself in the prevention and resolution of conflicts involving states and peoples or minority communities and in doing so respect and promote the implementation of self-determination in the broad sense;
to urge the UN to create an effective mechanism within the UN to assist in the resolution of self-determination claims and conflicts.
2 The State of Somaliland received independence from Great Britain on 26 June 2006 by
Royal Proclamation of HM Queen Elizabeth II
3 Jeffrey Herbst, Princeton University in The Washington Post, 2 January 2004
5 Hon. Edna Adan Ismail, G8 Arena, available at:
6 Analysis by Dr. Bob Arnot, NBC News, 18 May 2001, available at:
7 UNHCR Global Appeal 2006, Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/cgibin/