Dec 07, 2018

Self-determination Conference in The Hague Discussed the Political Possibilities of Catalan Independence

On Tuesday 9 November UNPO was present at an event in The Hague. The event was organised by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and featured contemporary self-determination as its central issue. UNPO was represented at the event by Fernando Burgés, the current programme manager, who spoke on political self-determination as an instrument of peace. As the event was focused on Catalonia, Mr Burgés also focused on other contemporary examples where the right to self-determination has been exercised in a peaceful and democratic manner. For instance, the Swiss canton of Jura became a fully-fledged member of the Swiss Confederation in 1979 after a popular vote. This idea illustrates the versatility and plurality of self-determination in democracy: Different nations and peoples have different goals, whilst what remains imperative is the need to facilitate concerns pertaining to political destiny in a peaceful and democratic manner.

The conference also featured the former UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Alfred de Zayas, who put forth a thought that ultimately, collective practice of self-determination brings forth more democratic and accountable international relations, where democracy and human rights are valued. Ben Emmerson, lawyer and human rights advocate, heavily criticised the actions of the Spanish state against the Catalan people’s expression of democratic political will. Since self-determination does not belong to any domestic legislation alone, but remains the responsibility of the international community alone, Mr Emmerson examined how Spain had violated both its domestic law and  its commitments to international law.

In addition, the public generally shared the opinion that Spain’s show of force, especially in September and October 2017, breached ethical limits. It was also highlighted that at the moment, there is a pro-independence majority in all political institutions in Catalonia and thus the situation can be cited as optimistic in long and medium term perspectives.