The Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, recognizes the principle of the equal rights and self-determination of all peoples and provides that every state has the duty to promote this principle. The Declaration provides that, inter alia:
“The establishment of a sovereign and independent State, the free association or integration with an independent State or emergence into any other political status freely determined by a people constitute modes of implementing the right to self-determination by that peoples… Nothing in the foregoing paragraphs shall be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.”
A Non-Self-Governing Territory, listed under Chapter XI of the UN Charter, can exercise the right of self-determination through the creation of an independent state, or through the establishment of an association with an independent state, or integration with an independent state. Furthermore, the right of self-determination must also be regarded as establishing the right to separate from the existing state of which the group concerned is a part, and to set up a new independent state, if the state concerned gravely violates its obligations towards a distinct people.
A State that gravely violates its obligations towards a distinct people or community within its boundaries loses the legitimacy to rule over that people. Thus, if the State and its successive governments have repeatedly oppressed a people over a long period, violated their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and if other means of achieving a sufficient degree of self-government have been tried and have failed, then the question of secession can arise as a means for the restoration of fundamental rights and freedoms and the promotion of the well-being of the people.
The internal aspects of the right of self-determination include the right of the people to freely pursue its economic, social and cultural development. It is often taken to mean participatory democracy. It can also mean the right to exercise cultural linguistic, religious, territorial or political autonomy within the boundaries of the existing state.