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14 JEMIE 1 (2015)

handle is hein.journals/jemie2015 and id is 1 raw text is: 

  iJournal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe
         JEMI            Vol 14,No 1, 2015, 1-25

                         Copyright © ECMI 2015
                         This article is located at:

What's In a Name? Peoples, Minorities, Indigenous Peoples, Tribal Groups
and Nations

Ulrike Barten*
University of Southern Denmark

       International law has accepted groups and endowed them with certain rights and
       obligations. A group's categorization determines exactly which rights it has. If a
       group is defined as a people, it has the right to self-determination. An indigenous
       people enjoys the right to internal self-determination. Tribal groups are treated as
       indigenous peoples by international law. Minorities, on the other hand, do not enjoy
       the right to self-determination, but enjoy more detailed rights in the areas of
       language, culture and politics. Nations may be the link between minorities and
       peoples, or may be simply a category of its own. As different names lead to different
       legal consequences, it is worth delineating the groups. Categorization is only possible
       to a certain degree. Grey areas can be minimized but not eliminated.

       Keywords: peoples; minorities; nations; tribal groups; indigenous peoples

Students of minority rights law inevitably come across the right to self-determination, that is,
a people's right to self-determination. A cascade of questions ensues: Who is a people? How
does a people differ from a minority? What does the right to self-determination entail? Is there
a right to secession? Is autonomy an alternative to self-determination or a way of exercising
the right to self-determination? Many more questions come to mind.
       To answer these questions, we turn to the definition of a people and the related
concepts of minorities, indigenous peoples, tribal groups and nations. According to the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, peoples enjoy the right to self-
determination. Nations also have the right to self-determination even though international
treaties always refer to peoples. Peoples (and nations) have been defined using two very
different methods: the territorial approach and the characteristics approach. The latter,
which looks at the defining characteristics of a people, is very similar to the way minorities

*Assistant Professor of International Law and Human Rights Law, University of Southern Denmark.
She was previously Junior Research Associate at the European Centre for Minority Issues. Email:
ulb@sam. sdu.dk.

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