The Romans called them Belgae and conflicting peoples in Europe called their territory "the battlefield of Europe. These Celtic and Germanic peoples called themselves Flemish and Wallons. This strip of land in the low lands south of what is now The Netherlands was in circa first century BCE dubbed Gallia Belgica. In 1830 the Belgian Revolution formed the independent constitutional monarchy side-by-side with a parliamentary democracy. Now the major partners of Belgium may split up.
At the core of growing disenchantment is the distribution of wealth. The Flemish have benefited from the "information economy" with their commitment to digital technology. The Walloons are an agrarian society that is not attracting new development investments. The Flemish want out of the relationship.
This is not a new debate. These two peoples have expressed disenchantment before. Now, however, it seems there is a real chance of divorce.
If the Walloons of Walloonia and the Flemish of Flanders do go on their own, they will demonstrate the continuing political dynamic of states breaking up. In the last twenty-five years twenty-one new independent states have come into being as a result of the breakdown of states.
Several states' governments (United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) expressed their opposition to the possibility that Fourth World nations might be recognized under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as exercising the right of political self-determination: the right to freely choose a political status without external interference. Instead of trying to hold together states where the constituent parts no longer wish to remain together--risking low intensity insurgencies--states' governments ought to recognize the natural process of state-breakup.
When the League of Nations (1920) was formed there were, but few states and mostly empires in the world. When the United Nations was formed in 1945 to replace the League there were no more than 50 modern states. There are now 200 states and territories in the world of which 192 are now members of the United Nations.
If the Walloons of Walloonia and the Flemish of Flanders decide to break up the state of Belgium, the world will have 201 states. In the future there may be scores more drawn from the Fourth World nations distressed about unhappy associations inside states they did not choose to join. The peaceful example of Walloonia and Flanders may help ease the transition to more states.
(c) 2007 Center for World Indigenous Studies
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