What is a National Minority?
This chapter considers a working definition of national minority that is well suited to a study focused on the tension between minority rights and sovereign state rights and written in the international society tradition. This objective is pursued in two ways: by surveying the history of how international organisations concerned with minority questions have sought — and as of 1995 failed — to establish a common definition of the term ‘minority’, and by evaluating the various meanings adopted by some of the leading academic commentators on the subject of minority rights. In particular, the kind of criteria these definitions employ is discussed, whether it is objective criteria such as distinctions of race, language, ethnicity, or religion, or alternatively, whether it is subjective distinctions such as group self-identification as a minority. This chapter also explores the relationship between the concept of a minority and the broader and more familiar idea of a nation with a corresponding right to self-determination.
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