Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Declaration of independence

A declaration of independence is a proclamation of the independence of a newly formed or reformed country from part or the whole of the territory of another, or a document containing such a declaration. Declarations of independence are generally made by one side without the consent of the previous government, and hence are often called unilateral declaration of independence or UDI.

In international law, unilateral declarations of independence are generally frowned upon, since preservation of territory is one of the few things that the countries of the world universally agree on. Declaring independence or supporting such a declaration is seen as a hostile act, that may easily lead to war. Money is often an important factor, with control of important resources such as ports, oil fields or strategic towns or geographic features leading to dispute. If a government has large debts to other organisations, there will be international pressure for these debts to be taken over by successor governments, even if the original governmental organisation is disbanded.

Many states have come into being through an act of UDI. The legality of a UDI is often the subject of debate and unsurprisingly the previous government typically asserts that a UDI is illegal. Often, international bodies and other countries decline at first to accept the legitimacy of the declared state and its government. If the declared state becomes a functioning entity, it may gain diplomatic recognition over time and a form of backdated legitimacy. Not all such declarations result in actual states and those governments that do result from UDIs do not always survive and are often rivaled by the previous government. A significant number of unilaterally declared governments collapse or otherwise give way, with control returning to the previous government or shifting to a new follow-on government.

Table of contents
1 Examples of UDIs
2 Threatened UDIs
3 Situations without UDIs

Examples of UDIs

Recent self-declared states also include Chechnya, Somaliland, and Somaliland's neighbor, Puntland.

Threatened UDIs

The Canadian province of Quebec had occasionally threatened to issue a UDI. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a UDI by Quebec would have no legal effect.

Situations without UDIs

In many cases, independence is achieved without a declaration of independence but instead has occurred by bilateral agreement. An example of this were the components of the British Empire, most parts of which achieved independence through negotiation with the United Kingdom.

One notable non-declaration of independence has been Taiwan, which is administered by the Republic of China. A formal declaration that Taiwan is independent of China has been one of conditions under which the People's Republic of China would use force against Taiwan. The political status of Taiwan remains controversial, and the position of most supporters of Taiwan independence has been since the Taiwan has never been a part of the PRC, and the governing institutions (of the ROC) function as an independent and sovereign state, there is no need to formally declare Taiwan to be independent. Supporters of Chinese reunification on Taiwan also see no point in a declaration of independence in that they argue that Taiwan is and should be part of a greater entity cultural entity of China, and a new Republic of Taiwan would only bring about a name change in exchange for a communist invasion attempt Taiwan could little afford.

See also: Independence Day, Separatism