A dissappearing right of self-determination: The ongoing impasse in Western Sahara and its consequences
Lewis, Andrew G.
- Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Abstract: The international law of self-determination and decolonization only provides a basic framework to guide the general outlines of what a resolution to the dispute over Western Sahara might look like, but the law is too weak to point to a specific and definitive... read moresolution. The expectation that the law should provide the basis for a resolution may be unrealistic. This expectation may in part be based on how references to principles of self-determination have been made throughout the course of the dispute. The failure to resolve the dispute after 34 years is in part explained by the weakness of the international law in this arena, and in part by how it has been sporadically and inconsistently applied. Even if the UN Security Council, tasked with resolving the dispute, wanted to use international law as the only basis for a resolution, it would struggle. However, the Security Council has further confused the issue by paying lip service to decolonization and self-determination throughout its handling of the 34-year dispute, and claiming to act in accordance with international legal principles. Yet when faced with opportunities to act decisively to resolve the dispute in accordance with these principles, the Council has allowed politics to trump international law, even ignoring its own resolutions in the process. Its inconsistent behavior has had the effect of further weakening the usefulness of the international law of self-determination. Any future action taken towards a resolution must be read as being based on political agreement, rather than acceptance on the part of Council members of any international legal principles.read less