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ICL Journal

Vienna Journal on International Constitutional Law

Editor-in-Chief: Bezemek, Christoph / Eberhard, Harald / Fuchs, Claudia

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Volume 13, Issue 2


Indivisibility and Secession Clauses in Current Constitutions and the Prevalence of Secessionist Movements – Empirical Paper Series on Secession and Constitutionalism, Part 1 of 2

Anthony Beauséjour
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  • Attorney and Research Fellow, The Institute on Self-Determination of Peoples and National Independence, Montréal, Canada
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Published Online: 2019-09-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/icl-2018-0070


Split into two parts, the Empirical Paper Series on Secession and Constitutionalism explores the relationship between constitutionalism and secession. While the second part of the article will examine the constitutional arrangement towards secession that prevailed in the states that had a region secede since 1900, this first part discusses the relationship between indivisibility and secession clauses in current constitutions and the prevalence of secessionist movements worldwide.

Virtually all consequentialist claims contained in existing scholarship concerning the relationship between constitutionalism and secession fall within either one of two doctrinal creeds. Whereas the Indivisibilist School asserts that indivisibility clauses best prevent secessionism and that secession clauses necessarily prompt this phenomenon, the Secessionist School maintains that prohibiting secession is counter-effective and that recognising it as a right can help defuse secessionism by avoiding confrontational tactics.

These claims are assessed on the basis on the Cohesion Dataset, the first-ever census of all constitutional arrangements regarding secession currently operative throughout the world. Contrarily to what existing doctrinal claims would suggest, the relationship between these various constitutional arrangements and secessionism is not linear, but rather U-shaped: both indivisibility and secession clauses are significantly associated with more secessionist activity than average. It is in fact constitutions where secession is neither permitted nor prohibited that are correlated with the least secessionist activity.

Keywords: secession & secessionist movements; constitutionalism; indivisibility clauses; secession clauses; empirical legal scholarship

About the article

Published Online: 2019-09-13

Published in Print: 2019-09-25

Citation Information: ICL Journal, Volume 13, Issue 2, Pages 147–186, ISSN (Online) 1995-5855, ISSN (Print) 2306-3734, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/icl-2018-0070.

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