Unilateral declaration of independence

A unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) is a formal process leading to the establishment of a new state by a subnational entity which declares itself independent and sovereign without a formal agreement with the state which it is seceding from. The term was first used when Rhodesia declared independence in 1965 from the United Kingdom (UK) without an agreement with the UK.[1]


Prominent examples of a unilateral declaration of independence other than Rhodesia's UDI in 1965 include that of the United States in 1776,[2] the Irish Declaration of Independence of 1919 by a revolutionary parliament, Katanga's declaration of independence by Moise Tshombe in July 1960,[3] the attempted secession of Biafra from Nigeria in 1967, the Bangladeshi declaration of independence from Pakistan in 1970, the (internationally unrecognized) secession of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus from Cyprus in 1983, the Palestinian Declaration of Independence from the Palestinian territories in 1988, and that of the Republic of Kosovo in 2008.[4] During the break up of the Soviet Union throughout 1991, many of its republics declared their independence unilaterally without agreement and were thus not recognised as legitimate by the Soviet central government.

During the breakup of Yugoslavia, the government of the United States asked the governments of Slovenia and Croatia to drop their UDI plans because of the threat of major war erupting in the Balkans because of it, and threatened that it would oppose both countries' UDIs on the basis of the Helsinki Final Act if they did so. However, four days later both Slovenia and Croatia announced their UDIs from Yugoslavia.[5]

Date Declared state Parent International recognition Notes
1776  United States Great Britain Yes
1777 Vermont Great Britain Yes Vermont signed a separate armistice with Britain in 1781 before the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Effective retroactive recognition by the United States was granted in 1791 when Vermont became the 14th state.
1816 Río de la Plata  Spain Yes, after the military victory Division and dismembration of the independent country. Paraguay secession. Brazil invaded Uruguay. Spain recognized the Argentine Independence in 1859
1821  Greece  Ottoman Empire Yes Intervention by France, Russia, and the United Kingdom in favour of Greece in the Greek War of Independence secured its independence in 1832.
1830 Belgium  United Netherlands Yes UDI (4 October 1830) recognized by the major European powers following the London Conference of 20 December 1830
1898 Philippines Spain No Conquered by United States; became independent in 1946 by agreement
1912 Albania  Ottoman Empire Yes
1919 Irish Republic  United Kingdom Yes
1922  Kingdom of Egypt  United Kingdom Yes Unilateral grant of independence by the British government
1931  Jiangxi  China No
1945  Indonesia  Netherlands Partial
1960  Katanga Republic of the Congo No Breakaway Congolese province, secession forcibly ended by the United Nations Operation in the Congo in 1963.
1965  Rhodesia  United Kingdom No Self-governing British colony, unilaterally declared itself independent as Rhodesia in 1965, renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia 1979, then gained international recognition as Zimbabwe in 1980.
1967  Anguilla  United Kingdom No Returned as a British Crown Colony in 1969.
1967  Biafra  Nigeria Partial Recognized by five countries. Present-day Nigeria
1971 Bangladesh  Pakistan Yes
1975 Cabinda  Angola No Present-day Angola
1975  East Timor  Portugal No Shortly following the declaration of independence, the territory was invaded and annexed by Indonesia.[6][7] A referendum in 1999 led to eventual independence in 2002.[8]
1983  Northern Cyprus Cyprus No Still claimed by Cyprus
1988  Palestine  Israel Partial Claims territories occupied by Israel since 1967
Israeli–Palestinian conflict and peace process still ongoing
See International recognition of the State of Palestine
1990  Transnistria  Moldova No Still claimed by Moldova
1990  Karakalpakstan  Uzbekistan No Incorporated into Uzbekistan in 1993.[9]
1991 Somaliland  Somalia No Still claimed by Somalia
1991  Croatia  Yugoslavia Yes Set off Croatian War of Independence
1991  Slovenia  Yugoslavia Yes Set off Ten-Days War
1992  Bosnia and Herzegovina  Yugoslavia Yes Set off Bosnian War
1991 Republic of Ichkeria  Russia No Present-day Chechen Republic, part of Russia
1991  Nagorno-Karabakh  Azerbaijan No Still claimed by Azerbaijan
1991  South Ossetia Georgia No Still claimed by Georgia
1999  Abkhazia Georgia No Still claimed by Georgia
2008  Kosovo  Serbia Partial Still claimed by Serbia
A United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution adopted on 8 October 2008 backed the request of Serbia to seek an International Court of Justice advisory opinion on Kosovo's declaration of independence.[10] On 22 July 2010, the ICJ ruled that the declaration of independence of Kosovo "did not violate any applicable rule of international law", because its authors, who were "representatives of the people of Kosovo", were not bound by the Constitutional Framework (promulgated by UNMIK) or by UNSCR 1244 that is addressed only to United Nations Member States and organs of the United Nations.[11][12]
See: International recognition of Kosovo
2014  Crimea  Ukraine No Annexed by Russia; still claimed by Ukraine
2014  Donetsk People's Republic
 Luhansk People's Republic
 Ukraine No Annexed by Russia; still claimed by Ukraine
2017  Catalonia  Spain No Spanish sovereignty remained unchanged

The International Court of Justice, in a 2010 advisory opinion, declared that unilateral declarations of independence were not illegal under international law.[12]

See also


  1. Douglas George Anglin. Zambian Crisis Behaviour: Confronting Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence, 1965–1966. McGill-Queens, 1994.
  2. Don H. Doyle. Secession as an International Phenomenon: From America's Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements. University of Georgia Press, 2010.
  3. Briscoe, Neil (2003). Britain and UN Peacekeeping: 1948–67. Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 117–118. ISBN 978-1-4039-1499-6.
  4. United Nations. Index to Proceedings of the General Assembly 2008/2009: Subject Index. New York City, USA: United Nations, 2010. Pp. 138.
  5. Florian Bieber, Džemal Sokolović. Reconstructing multiethnic societies: the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Ashgate, 2001. Pp. 41.
  6. Berlie, Jean A. (1 October 2017). East Timor's Independence, Indonesia and ASEAN. Springer. p. 17. ISBN 9783319626307.
  7. Kammen, Douglas (20 August 2015). Three Centuries of Conflict in East Timor. Rutgers University Press. p. 130. ISBN 9780813574127.
  8. Moxham, Ben (February 2008). "State-Making and the Post-Conflict City: Integration in Dili, Disintegration in Timor-Leste" (PDF). London School of Economics and Political Science. pp. 10–11. ISSN 1749-1800. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  9. Olmos, Francisco (28 May 2020). "The curious case of the Republic of Karakalpakstan". Foreign Policy Centre.
  10. Backing Request by Serbia, General Assembly Decides to Seek International Court of Justice Ruling on Legality of Kosovo's Independence, United Nations, 8 October 2008
  11. Accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo, Nspm.rs, 22 July 2010
  12. Accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo Archived 21 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine, International Court of Justice, 22 July 2010
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