What is Decolonisation?

Decolonisation is the undoing of colonialism. Colonialism is a process of a nation establishing and maintaining its dominations of overseas territories. The concept of decolonisation, in particular, applies to the dismantlement of European colonies in Africa and Asia towards the second half of the 20th century.

What is the scope of Decolonisation?

The very core of decolonisation is the right to self-determination as a fundamental right identified by the United Nations, which paves the way for independence along with other methods of decolonization.

The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization has stated that there is no other alternative for the coloniser but to allow a process of self-determination.

The process of decolonisation may involve nonviolent revolutions or violent revolutionary wars by pro-independence groups. It may be intranational like the Indian Independence Struggle or may involve the intervention of foreign powers as was the case during the liberation of Bulgaria when the Russian Empire intervened to free it from the Ottoman Empire. 

Along with these examples, there have been cases of particularly active periods of decolonization during modern times such as the breakup of the Spanish Empire in the 19th century, Abolition of the Ottoman Empire post-World-War I, dismantlement of the British, French, Dutch and Japanese Colonial Empires after World War II and the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.

What halted the colonizers from colonisation and how decolonisation occurred?

World opinion began favouring the idea of decolonisation following the end of World War I. The League of Nations (Dissolved on April 20, 1946) was the first international body that took a collective effort towards decolonisation. A number of mandates were created for this purpose but these were interpreted as mere redistribution of control over the former colonies to that of other colonial powers at the time, the notable example being German colonies in Africa being divided among France and Britain.

It was the devastation following World War II when the colonial powers on their own accord began taking steps towards decolonisation. As they had other priorities such as rebuilding their own countries, there was little finance or enthusiasm for military action to hold into overseas territories against their will

Through referendums, the dependent territories have chosen to retain their dependent status as was the case of Gibraltar and French Guiana. Colonial powers have at times favoured decolonisation in order to rid themselves of the financial and military burdens in light of independence movements that grew in the colonies

The final phase of decolonization may concentrate on handing over responsibility for foreign relations, security and soliciting and de jure recognition for the new sovereignty. However even following the recognition of statehood a degree of continuity can be maintained through bilateral treaties between now equal governments, such as military training, mutual protection pacts etc.

Factors that led to decolonization:

  1. After World War II, European countries lacked the wealth and political support necessary to suppress far-away revolts.
  2. They could not oppose the new superpowers the U.S. and the Soviet Union‘s stands against colonialism.
  3. Strong independence movements in colonies

Between 1945 and 1960, three dozen new states in Asia and Africa achieved autonomy or outright independence from their European colonial rulers.

Impacts of decolonialization:

  1. The colonial rule drew arbitrary natural boundaries dividing ethnic and linguistic groups and natural features, and laying the foundation for the creation of numerous states lacking geographic, linguistic, ethnic, or political affinity.
  2. USA and European world started democratization of these countries. The Soviet Union deployed similar effort to encourage new nations to join the communist bloc. Some adopted capitalism(Malaysia, Indonesia) while others socialism(India, Egypt etc)
  3. Independent foreign policy: Nonaligned movement started in 1955 to focus on internal development.
  4. Raise of Neo-colonialism- the practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural forces to control new countries.
  5. The dependency principle evolved- the claim that post-colonial states have no choice but to accept Western conditions for loans, because they desperately need the money to support their own domestic policies.
  6. Unlike the colonial time, now they were free and started to revive their old culture. Religious and ethnic movements facilitated interaction of cultures.
  7. Various films, music, fiction, autobiographies, and museum displays were developed to learn the lessons from the history of colonization and its impacts.
  8. Population resettlements like relocation of Jews in Palestine and Sikhs and Muslims in border areas of India-Pakistan, creating permanent animosity between people.
  9. Also few newly independent countries acquired stable governments almost immediately; others were ruled by dictators or military for decades, or endured long civil wars.
  10. Democracies & civil wars: Though democratic forms of government were setup in colonies, only few like India, Malaysia and Egypt were able to keep their democratic character. In Africa most countries like Angola, Nigeria, Zaire etc suffered from civil wars based on ethnic lines and with a dictator governing the countries.

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