International Law, Institutional Moral Reasoning, and Secession
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This paper argues for the superiority of international law’s existing ban on unilateral secession over its reform to include either a primary or remedial right to secession. I begin by defending the claim that secession is an inherently institutional concept, and that therefore we ought to employ institutional moral reasoning to defend or criticize specific proposals regarding a right to secede. I then respond to the objection that at present we lack the empirical evidence necessary to sustain any specific conclusion regarding an international legal right to secession. Specifically, I argue that we ought to adopt a precautionary approach, and that such an approach justifies giving no weight to promoting political self-determination per se when considering whether to reform international law governing secession. I conclude with several reasons to think that even a remedial right to unilateral secession will detract from, not enhance, the international legal order’s ability to promote peace and human rights.
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