A Successful Path To A Peaceful Secession

Robert young, a professor of political science, wrote an interesting paper about how peaceful secessions happen. In it, he analyzes various secessions from the past and theorized that the long term success of the peaceful ones depended on their fitting a general pattern.

He focuses mainly on three secession movements; Hungary from Austria in 1867, Norway from Sweden in 1905, and Singapore from Malaysia in 1965. It is interesting to note that, while they were considered peaceful, they weren’t without conflict — a Hungarian revolt was put down, there were threats of war between Norway and Sweden, and race riots sprang up in Singapore.

The pattern is as follows:

  1. Secession follows protracted constitutional and political disputes.
    It results from long periods of disagreement and crystallizes around a symbolic issue of principle.
  2. The secessor state declares its intent to withdraw.
  3. The predecessor state accepts the principle of secession: negotiations follow.
    This is usually a bitter and difficult decision, but one that marks the difference between contested secessions and peaceful ones.
  4. Secession is a momentous, galvanizing event.
    While “peaceful secession” gives the impression of tranquility, the aftermath can be a period of “disruption and uncertainty.”
  5. The government is broadened and strengthened on each side, and there is a premium on solidarity.
    The focus will be on the immediate need to reach a settlement.
  6. The negotiations involve few participants
  7. The settlement is made quickly
  8. The settlement involves a relatively short list of items
  9. Foreign powers play an important role
    International recognition is important for the new country and outside powers could be allies
  10. The secession is accomplished Constitutionally
    All peaceful secessions are accomplished through legal means
  11. There are no other substantial constitutional changes in either the seceding or the predecessor state
  12. Policies in the two states soon begin to diverge
  13. Secession is irrevocable
How Do Peaceful Secessions Happen?