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Salmond to Speak at World Forum in Berlin

Former First Minister to address World Forum “on the right of self-determination and United Nations reform.”

Former Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, will tell the World Forum on the Future of Democracy in Berlin, that the key boundary between “legitimate self-determination” and “separatism” lies in the means employed rather than ends pursued. He argues that all movements for independence and self-determination benefit from a resolute pursuit of peaceful campaigns and the United Nations and other international institutions should be more responsive to those who choose the path of peaceful persuasion, particularly in the face of state obstruction or oppression.

He said;

“The principle and international legal base of peoples to self-determination is enshrined in resolutions of the United Nations General Council and is a cardinal and binding principle of international law.

“The degree of attachment to peaceful change is how the real measure of the legitimacy of a national movement should be defined.

“In societies with access to the ballot box, there can be no possible defence of a resort to violence. Peaceful agitation with the aim of expressing a mandate of popular will is always the best, indeed the only, legitimate way forward.

“Equally, the international community needs to be far more alert to illegal state action against distinct communities asserting their rights. Access through the United Nations to international arbitration should be facilitated as a path of encouragement not a route of last resort.

“In societies with no access to democratic expression then violence is still not the way forward. By definition, a repressive state will have more ability to inflict violence upon a people than the people have upon the state.

“If a century ago, Mahatma Gandhi could face down the most powerful Empire on earth with a programme of civil disobedience, then his modern day successors have no acceptable excuse or pretext for employing violence.

“But the international community also has obligations to reform the only organisation capable of upholding the rule of international law - the United Nations.

“Too often the path of violence is seen as some sort of proxy for the seriousness of intent of a cause. The reverse should be the case.

“Thus movements who rely on democratic expression, or where that is not possible, civil disobedience and passive resistance, are the ones which should be accorded respect and their route forward actively encouraged and facilitated.

“Finally, the search for the holy grail of reform of the United Nations is an essential part of restoring stability. The Security Council veto must be able to be circumvented when an overwhelming majority of the General Council repeatedly determines a route forward, as exemplified in the tragedy in Gaza at the present moment.

“The UN will always rely on the participation of states for its Executive Action, whether that be on aid, enforcement action, or indeed international legal recourse. But world relations cannot be frozen in the aspic of the post Second World War settlement and new voices must be allowed into the inner sanctum of these structures. The General Assembly, not by a simple majority, but on repeated occasions by overwhelming majority, must be able to assert its will over blockage in the Security Council. It is a reform which has been long canvassed for but has never been more urgently required than it is today.

The old world order has crumbled over the last quarter century and nothing acceptable has emerged to take its place. The United States is increasingly unable and perhaps unwilling to fulfil a role as the world policeman, the western democracies stand morally comprised by acting outwith United Nations mandates, world institutions do not reflect the realities of the power balances of the modern world, and international relief organisations are inadequately resourced to deal with the extent of the demands for humanitarian assistance.

If the UN is to remain our best hope of restoring a world order based on the rule of law, then it must have a structure and support base capable of enforcing and upholding it."

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