The Missing Link between Self-Determination and Democracy: The Case of East Timor

Fan, Hua | January 1, 2008

This article uses the U.N.’s recent national-building efforts in to illustrate the importance of the link between self-determination and democracy. It argues that democracy is an indispensable complement for self-determination, offers three reasons, and uses the pre- and post-independence experiences of to illustrate these three points. First, democracy can help identify whether a group qualifies for the right to self-determination and whether and how it wants to exercise that right. Second, democracy can better incarnate and individualize the group right of self-determination and ensure that the respect for the rights and well-being of each individual serves as a guiding principle for the implementation of self-determination. Third, democracy can augment the instrumental value of self-determination and promote more efficient policies and institutions, both during and after self-determination. The article concludes that democracy is the catalyst for self-determination to bring about the advancement of human rights and the improvement of general welfare of societies.