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As we enter a New World, a new era in time we fundamentally stand together in the promotion of the principality, that we shall as ‘people’1 preserve the superiority of the human race in the world for a another century. However as the 21st century commences we begin to understand that the realities of the circumstances facing our world do not only portray a bleak and despondent image but the challenges before us, are insurmountable.

With 6 billion people on the planet, ‘Three billion of them are living under $2 a day. A billion two hundred million of them live under $1 a day…which is absolute poverty…Two billion…with no power, a billion and a half…with no water…furthermore too many people are dying due to lack of vaccines.’2 The increasing inequity problems are clearly evident and are suggesting that the “rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer.”

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The aspects of instability have been fuelled by international political uncertainty, which has often resulted in conflict. In the case of the Cold War despite it being an ideological conflict that saw, “victory of the Free World…ranking with the victory of the Allies in World War II, and the landing on the moon, as the most important achievements of mankind in this century (20th century).” The Cold War nonetheless stamped down severe global implications that still reverberate today. Local conflicts due to ethical, religious and territorial factors added with the transitional issues such as international crime, terror and deterioration of the environment. Meaning that the major challenges inherited from the previous century are far from over and are the core challenges that should determine our very existence or survival in the world.

To adequately analyse and evaluate the question in mind, for purposes of clarification this essay shall view ‘major challenges’ as obstructions faced by world leaders, global institutions and states. Thus with this framework in mind it shall enable analysis into the political, economic, environmental and sociological factors that demand to be the major challenges facing the 21st century. June 1945 saw the signing of the UN Charter, which essentially promoted the concept of self-determination of which the League of Nations had failed to realise as a legal principle. ‘Article 1(2) and Article 55’, reiterates the same phraseology, stressing that friendly relations should exist amongst states. But also respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination.

Resolution 1514 (XV) of the Colonial Declaration (1960) in essence stated that political, economic, social or educational preparedness, will not serve as protest to delaying independence to non-self governing territories.5 Under this assumption we are led to believe that unlimited and unrestricted access to exercise the right to self-determination is very much a right for ‘all peoples’. However, what it fails to interpret is the eligibility to this right, which is reinforced with different modes of implementation to add more flexibility. In all the legal documents the right to self-determination is applied only to peoples.

In the Declaration on the Rights of Minorities there is no mention of the right to self-determination.6 Moreover, Customary International Law also denies the right of self-determination to minorities. It was evident in an Aaland Islands case regarding Swedish minorities of the island and was also reaffirmed recently when the international community denied the right to self-determination to the Serbian population of Bosnia and Croatia (Conference on Yugoslavia Arbitration Commission).7 The point in both of these cases was that the population claiming self-determination was not a distinct people but a minority therefore not eligible for self-determination.

To put further weight on this issue considerations must also be made by the international community as to how much leverage to the concept of self-determination a newly independent state must possess. This is so as some states have abused the right to self-determination to the extent whereby it is no longer a right but an instrument employed to achieving negative outcomes. It was clearly evident in the case of Yugoslavia, when Krajina Serbs exercised their alleged right to self-determination by the means of massive killings and ethnic cleansing.Or when the Armenian minorities of Karabakh, assisted militarily and financially by Armenia, in the commitment of ethnic cleansing against Azeris making Azerbaijan the nation with the largest refugee population per capita in the world. This highlights the prospect that self-determination may always be at the expense of another right, and in this case it is a humanitarian right violation, that which prohibits brutal force or torture to any persons.8

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, meant American primacy has become unprecedented and incontestable. The United States has now taken a role upon itself to be the ‘global police force’9 with only multilateral institutions such as the United Nations to monitor the aims and intentions of her objectives. In adopting this self-confessed label, America employed humanitarian rights as a justification for intervention. One argument used to justify the use of Western troops was that in Kosovo 1999, without the authorisation of the UN, America launched a bombing campaign in support of the repressed ethnic Albanians.

Even though their actions gained approving under ‘international law their response was to a situation of overwhelming humanitarian need.’10 Article 2(4) of the UN Charter11 indicates that, these actions were a violation of the provision despite the fact that it was an extreme case of humanitarian need. Actions of this nature have aroused concern from superpowers such as China whom do not agree with the US interventionist strategy, as it strongly believes in the notion of national sovereignty, ‘right for every government to determine the future of its own subjects’.12 Thereby considers the US is being hypocritical on the boundaries that it has mistreated international prisoners held in Gauntanimo Bay in manner that is not in accordance with customary international law.13

Humanitarian intervention is unmistakably an honourable gesture provided by those with the will, power and resources. However the practice of such a concept should be approached with extreme vigilance as it may encourage forceful states to justify intervention into the territories of weaker states. As was the situation in the case of Taiwan whereby China believed Taiwan rightfully belonged to them, and had lost the state in the first place due to foreign intervention. The Chinese fought rigorously in an attempt to win it back, even at times offering Taiwan substantial autonomy to see a reunified China. China wishes to reclaim Taiwan for ethical and moral reasons, however Europe and US believe China wishes to repossess Taiwan as an economic asset to further its own interests.

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