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Article 1, paragraph 2 of the United Nations charter allows for the right of self-determination.

  1. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

The wikipedia article on self determination lists a number of issues around the definition of self-determination and its conflicts with territorial integrity, local constitutions and so on.

Practically today there are a number of secessionist movements such as Catalan, Scotland, Puerto Rico and Quebec. Are there any United Nations backed groups, or other international groups, working on dealing with the issues highlighted by these movements and the others listed on wikipedia and elsewhere to try to provide a structure or framework for peaceful expression of self-determination and secession from recognised sovereign states?

A full framing of rules for self-determination would also require addressing scenarios where a people wish to join another state. Real world examples would include Puerto Rico, Northern Ireland/RoI and topically (tongue in cheek) Greenland.

  • Puerto Ricans prefer Statehood to outright independence (i.e. they want to be in the U.S. more). The Commonwealth government is kind of... in debt. – hszmv Aug 22 at 12:25
  • @hszmv, kind of like the US itself. I know there are significant differences, but PR's debt is much less as % of GDP then the US or any number of other countries. Though I should have allowed for that in the question, it wasn't supposed to be purely about seccession, joining another country would also need framing under a full "self-determination" definition. NI/ROI or Greenland being cases in addition to PR. – Jontia Aug 22 at 14:31
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Decolonization is part of the self-assigned goals of United Nations. The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was adopted by UN General Assembly in 1960.

The United Nations keeps an official list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, currently including 17 territories for a total population of circa 2 million. None of the territories mentioned in the OP (Quebec, Catalonia...) are considered as Non-Self-Governing Territories by the UN, but for instance the US Virgin Islands, Gibraltar and French Polynesia are.

UN also includes a Special Committee on Decolonization. According to Wikipedia:

In a June 2016 report, the Special Committee called for the United States to expedite the process to allow self-determination in Puerto Rico.

The Secretary General also supports efforts toward decolonization of such territories. For instance, here is a speech of current SG Antonio Guterres where he notably rejoices that

Last November, in a referendum, New Caledonians expressed their will on their future and on the status of the Territory. This was an important step forward in the decolonization process.

  • Interesting, although as you've noted it only applies to a subset of independence movements, and obviously doesn't cover the idea of a people wanting to join another state. (Which I think I clarified/added after you posted). – Jontia Aug 23 at 8:30
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Within Europe there is the FUEN - the Federal Union of European Nationalities (https://www.fuen.org), an umbrella organisation of the autochthonous, national minorities / ethnic groups in Europe. They include among others the Catalans, South-Tyrolean Germans, Szekelys (Hungarians) of Transylvania, etc. They are the pan-european civil society representative of European minorities advocating language rights and other issues related to self-determination.

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    FUEN seems concerned mostly with the rights of minorities within existing states, rather than championing independence for these groups. Self Determination doesn't appear anywhere in their "Pragmatic Declaration" document. – Jontia Aug 23 at 9:04

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