Implementing a Right of Secession: Constitutional and International Legal Strategies

Assuming one wanted to support a right of secession – hardly the dominant view in law or politics – what would be the most promising strategy? The most common approach is constitutionalization, as recent secession attempts suggest. But this is only half right. The path leads through many small changes, rather than a single, quixotic swerve towards a new legal rule. But precisely because the existing global norm limits the ability to create change within states, we cannot simply abandon the idea of a new norm. Advocates of secession need a point of triangulation outside the state to advance their cause, which can be found in international law. Prospects for change in individual constitutions will be strengthened if we keep a global claim, however implausible now, clearly in sight. This topic is relevant for a simple reason: However disfavored in law and politics, secession is an endemic challenge to the global architecture. It is not going away, and therefore we will need to manage it.