The age of decolonization is of crucial importance for our understanding of today’s world. By dissolving colonial rule around the world this process led to the emergence of new sovereign states, thereby permanently changing international relations and international law. It is especially the third phase of decolonization which is the one most closely associated with the term “decolonization” in the present and which refers to the end of European colonial rule after 1945. The process of the dissolution of the European overseas empires had a profound effect on the course of international history during the 20th century. This process occurred relatively quickly given that colonial rule had existed in some cases for a number of centuries. Only after just 30 years, from 1945 to 1975, all the colonial empires had disappeared from the global map.
This transformation proceeded by no means linearly or according to a set pattern. There were considerable differences between the various world regions, with cases of peaceful transition as well as extremely violent wars of decolonization. The colonial policies and strategic aims of the colonial powers and the strength of the respective anticolonial movements were the decisive factors. Additionally the Cold War confrontation and the growing importance of international organizations such as the United Nations were central aspects of the international context in which the third phase of decolonization occurred and they had a decisive effect on that process.
Concerning this international context various contributions on hhr has already linked the dissolution of European colonial empires with the debates on universal human rights as well as humanitarianism. Continue reading