Declaration of independence
A declaration of independence is a proclamation of the independence of a newly formed or reformed independent state from a 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 sometimes called unilateral declarations of independence (UDI). Used without qualification, "The Declaration of Independence" sometimes refers to the United States Declaration of Independence: the first such declaration so called.
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 upon. 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 when one state attempts to succeed another, with control of important resources such as ports, oil fields or strategic towns or geographic features leading to dispute. If a government has extemely 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 a 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 retrospective legitimacy. Not all declarations of independence 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 futher, successor government.
List of UDIs
- Declaration of Arbroath (Scotland, 1320) - The first known formal declaration of independence in which Scottish leaders declared Scotland's independence from England on behalf of the Scottish people.
- Oath of Abjuration (Low Countries, 1581) - The Plakkaat of Verlatinghe was the formal declaration of independence on July 26, 1581 of the independence of the northern Low Countries from King Philip II of Spain.
- United States Declaration of Independence (1776) - Made by thirteen of Great Britain's North American. In 1778, the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Amity and Commerce were signed by the United States and France signaling the first official recognition of the new country. The Kingdom of Great Britain formally recognized the new country following the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
- Brazilian Declaration of Independence (1822) - Brazil was declared independent from Portugal on September 7 by then regent Pedro de Bragança e Bourbon, who was then crowned Emperor Peter I of Brazil.
- Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand (1835) - This was a declaration of the independence of the Maori tribes.
- Texan Declaration of Independence (1836) - Texas declared its independence from Mexico as the Republic of Texas.
- Philippine Declaration of Independence (1898) - The Philippines were declared independent from Spain by Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898 when the Spanish-American War was still under way. However, neither Spain nor the United States recognized the declaration. De facto Philippine independence was finally achieved and recognized on July 4, 1946 after 48 years of United States colonial rule.
- Easter Proclamation (Ireland, 1916) - During the Easter Rising in Dublin Irish rebels proclaimed, on behalf of the Irish people, the establishment of an independent Irish republic. Unlike the later Declaration of Independence of 1919, the Proclamation of the Republic was not issued by an elected body and was not followed by the establishment of any de facto political institutions.
- Irish Declaration of Independence (1919) - The Irish Republic, encompassing the whole island of Ireland, was declared by Dáil Éireann (an extra-legal revolutionary parliament) in 1919. By the declaration the Dáil claimed to "ratify" the earlier Easter Proclamation. The new Irish Republic was recognized by no country except Russia, was rivaled by the administration of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland during the Anglo-Irish War, and was ultimately superseded by the Irish Free State in 1922.
- Icelandic Declaration of Independence (1944) - Iceland unilaterally declared its independence from Denmark, following a plebiscite of the local population, on June 17, 1944. The Danish King Christian X, whose country was under Nazi occupation at the time, had urged Iceland to wait until the end of the war before making any such move but otherwise did nothing to prevent it (and was unable to do so in any case).
- Indonesian Declaration of Independence (1945) - Indonesia declared independence from the Netherlands on August 17, 1945. Its independence was soon recognized by the United States and Australia, but not by the Netherlands until 1949.
- Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (1948) - The declaration was made on May 14, 1948 (the day in which the British Mandate over Palestine expired) by the Jewish People's Council .
- Katangan Declaration of Independence (1960) - Katanga, a former a province of the Belgian Congo, attempted to seceded by means of a UDI in 1960, when Congo was granted its independence. The attempted secession was ended by the implementation of the United Nations supervised National Conciliation Plan in January, 1963.
- Rhodesian Declaration of Independence (1965) - Ian Smith's white minority government declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1965. Few states accepted this declaration's legitimacy. The UDI Rhodesian state was ultimately replaced under the Lancaster House Agreement by a restored British regime under a governor: Lord Soames. Within a short time, a new, much more widely recognized independent state, Zimbabwe, came into existence.
- Declaration of Independence of Guinea Bissau (1973) - Guinea Bissau, formerly Portuguese Guinea, declared independence from Portugal. The declaration was recognized by many countries, before Portugal formally granted independence in 1974.
- East Timorese Declaration of Independence (1975) - East Timor, formerly Portuguese Timor, declared independence from Portugal on November 28. The declaration was recognized by several Marxist-Leninist and Third World nations, including the People's Republic of China, but not by neighboring Australia, Portugal or Indonesia. Indonesia invaded on December 7, 1975, and annexed East Timor as its 'twenty-seventh province' on July 17, 1976.
- Declaration of Independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (1983) - The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed in northern Cyprus in 1983. The area had been occupied by Turkish forces since a Turkish invasion in 1974. The state has only received international recognition from Turkey.
- Palestinian Declaration of Independence (1988) - The Palestinian Liberation Organization unilaterally proclaimed the State of Palestine in 1988. The PLO had no control of any territory at the time and a de facto state has yet to come into existence in the occupied territories.
Possible future UDI in Quebec
The Canadian province of Quebec has made public its intention to issue a UDI if the federal government of Canada were to refuse negotiations for secession after a winning referendum on sovereignty. The Supreme Court of Canada issued an opinion that there was nothing in the Canadian constitution, nor in international law to give legal effect to a UDI. Many jurists stated that if indeed this was true, it was also true that there was nothing legally preventing a UDI either. The Supreme Court also stated that were the Quebec people to vote 'Yes' in a referendum on independence, the federal government and the provincial governments would have to negotiate. (see Reference re Secession of Quebec).
Independence without a UDI
In many cases, independence is achieved without a declaration of independence but instead occurrs by bilateral agreement. An example of this is the independence of many components of the British Empire, most parts of which achieved independence through negotiation with the United Kingdom government.
One notable example of de facto independence in the absence of a formal declaration of independence is Taiwan, which is administered by the Republic of China (ROC). The People's Republic of China (PRC) has stated that a formal declaration that Taiwan is independent of China would be one of the conditions under which the would use force against Taiwan.
The political status of Taiwan remains controversial; the position of most supporters of Taiwanese independence has been that since 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. Opponents of Taiwanese independence on Taiwan itself, who are sometimes but not always supporters of Chinese reunification, also see no point in a declaration of independence in that they argue that Taiwan is and should be part of a greater cultural entity of China, and a new Republic of Taiwan would only bring about a change in name in exchange for an invasion attempt Taiwan could little afford.