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Declaration of independence
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Declaration of independence

A declaration of independence is a proclamation of the independence of a newly formed or reformed country from 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 often called unilateral declaration of independence or UDI. When capitalized or unqualified (the Declaration of Independence) it usually refers to that of the country in discussion, or sometimes to the United States Declaration of Independence.

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 on. 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, 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 an act of 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 backdated legitimacy. Not all such declarations 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 new follow-on government.

Many declarations of independence including those for Texas (now part of the United States of America), Rhodesia, and Vietnam have been modeled on the United States Declaration of Independence.

Table of contents
1 Examples of UDIs
2 Possible UDIs
3 Situations without UDIs

Examples of UDIs

Recent self-declared states also include Chechnya, Somaliland, and Somaliland's neighbor, Puntland.

Possible UDIs

The Canadian province of Quebec has made public its intention to issue a UDI if the federal government of Canada were to refuse negociations 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 negociate. (see Reference re Secession of Quebec)

Situations without UDIs

In many cases, independence is achieved without a declaration of independence but instead has occurred by bilateral agreement. An example of this were the components of the British Empire, most parts of which achieved independence through negotiation with the United Kingdom.

One notable non-declaration of independence has been Taiwan, which is administered by the Republic of China. A formal declaration that Taiwan is independent of China has been one of the conditions under which the People's Republic of China would use force against Taiwan. The political status of Taiwan remains controversial, and the position of most supporters of Taiwan independence has been 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 Taiwan independence on Taiwan, 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 name change in exchange for an invasion attempt Taiwan could little afford.

See also: Independence Day, Separatism