Separatism

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(From separate: L. separare). Doctrine and political movement that promotes the separation of a territory from a larger territory in order to achieve the independence of its population or its annexation by another State. S. expresses the will to national self-determination which intensifies when the rights of ethnic, religious, cultural, or other minorities are violated, or when economic conditions worsen in a region of the country, which is commonly accompanied by the violation of human rights and arbitrary treatment of all kinds. When the eagerness for self-government is crushed by force, this generally engenders a reaction on the part of the oppressed, leading to a vicious circle of reciprocal violence as is happening in Chechnya, Kurdistan, the Basque country, Corsica, Northern Ireland, Tibet, the Yucatan, East Timor and in other parts of the world today. Bureaucratism and arbitrary administrative acts on the part of the central power constitute an important factor in the generation of separatist conflicts. A phenomenon of a different nature occurs when one area, region, or province of a country attempts to separate itself from the whole because of its more advanced development. Absent the imposition of any inequity or bureaucratic mistreatment, s. in such a case reflects the ambition of certain strata of the population to constitute their own power in isolation from the whole. Nor should we overlook the actions of oligarchic interest groups, which for their own benefit seek either to liberate themselves from the whole or to be annexed to another country. Separation is a delicate problem that demands broad public debate, with the final decision always in the hands of the people. This is achieved through open plebiscite, not by simple resolution of some occasional leadership of the separatist area. Moreover, even in the case of a plebiscite, it is important that a body of accords be agreed upon with minority that is obliged to accept the separation. N.H. condemns ethnocentric, genocide and repression; advocates the recognition of cultural autonomy for minorities; and is convinced that the vicious circle of violence can be broken by measures that include raising the standard of living, eliminating areas of poverty, modernization of developing regions and countries, respect for human rights, de-bureaucratization and democratization. In any event, the phenomenon of s. will increase in the continuing process of destructing of national states that is today taking place in the world, and it can take a new direction only if the development of an authentic federative system that provides autonomy and sovereignty for the affected regions can be set in motion. Although the concept of an authentic federalism that could replace the disappearing national states may still seem somewhat shocking to the sensibilities of broad sectors of the populations, the new generations today have an awareness of the conflicts created by excessive centralization of the national state.