Simply put, the right to self determination is the right of nations or peoples to freely determine their own political status with no foreign interference. Nations and peoples, by virtue of this right, are free to choose how they will be governed and who will govern them. They, and they alone, will determine how to allocate the resources within their defined territories. In exercising the right to self determination, intervention by foreign political powers is not necessary. What is far more important is for the nation or people exercising this right to be firm in wanting to exercise this right.
It was Vladimir Lenin who first discussed this in his essay The Right of Nations to Self-Determination. Later statesmen and politicians elaborated further on the topic. The right to self determination is enshrined in several international treaties and agreements such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Outside intergovernmental bodies, gatherings of people’s organizations and social movements have produced documents such as the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples that affirm the right to self determination of peoples. The right to self determination of Indigenous Peoples is also enshrined in the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
However, self determination is yet to be realized by the majority of Indigenous Peoples all over the world. Indigenous Peoples and their rights are under constant attack from States and corporate actors. Many States still refuse to recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Some States do not even recognize Indigenous Peoples as a distinct group. Since the ancestral lands of Indigenous Peoples are rich in natural resources, landgrabbing and the entry of large-scale extractives and energy companies threaten the very existence of Indigenous Peoples. Many have been forced to leave their lands due to increased pressure from heavy militarization brought about by development aggression. The number of violations of indigenous rights, including extrajudicial killings of Indigenous Peoples rights activists and advocates, grows year by year.
The threat is real. The fight for self determination is far from over.
Featured image from Wikimedia.