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Home > Future of Self Determination > Self Determination in the Information Age > Nations & Cyberspace
Self Determination in the Information Age
The ''information age'' is upon us, as we convene for this conference with people from all around the world to discuss the future role of information technologies in our lives and the lives of our people. As we consider the technologies, we must always keep central in our minds the purpose, the reason for their use. Interactive media such as the World Wide Web are so engaging as to almost be worthwhile just for their own sake, it seems. Almost, but not really. The technology is only a tool, and is only as useful as the information that it carries.
Thus we must continually be aware of the need for content. We cannot get so entranced by the magic of how we put information into cyberspace, that we forget that what we are putting there is what really matters. The medium is not the message.
We submit that one of the most valuable and essential processes that humanity can engage in, and which is therefore essential to look at in terms of information technologies, is the process of ''self-determination.''
The principal of self-determination of peoples was embodied as a central purpose of the United Nations in its Charter in 1945. ''The Purposes of the United Nations are... 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 resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, stated: ''All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.'' 
By this we see that self-determination is tied in with all aspects of life - political, economic, social, and cultural - and is ultimately about how we choose to live, and allow others to live, together on this planet.
In 1995, these issues continue to be highly relevant as numerous peoples around the world strive for the fulfillment of this basic right of self-determination. On February 7, 1995, the UN General Assembly again adopted a resolution regarding the ''Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination,'' in which the General Assembly reaffirms ''the importance, for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights, of the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination'' and welcomes ''the progressive exercise of the right to self-determination by peoples under colonial, foreign or alien occupation and their emergence into sovereign statehood and independence.'' 
The UN has also declared the Decade of Indigenous peoples, and has recognized ''the value and the diversity of the cultures and the forms of social organization of the world's indigenous people, and the ''vital role of indigenous people and their communities in the interrelationship between the natural environment and its sustainable development..., including their holistic traditional scientific knowledge of their lands, natural resources and environment.'' 
In The Meaning of 'Nation' and 'State' in the Fourth World, Dr. Richard Griggs of the University of Capetown defines ''Fourth World'' as ''Nations forcefully incorporated into states which maintain a distinct political culture but are internationally unrecognized.'' 
Griggs also provides a more detailed description as follows: ''A convenient shorthand for the Fourth World would be internationally unrecognized nations. These are the 5,000 to 6000 nations representing a third of the world's population whose descendants maintain a distinct political culture within the states which claim their territories. In all cases the Fourth World nation is engaged in a struggle to maintain or gain some degree of sovereignty over their national homeland.''
In many cases, it is indigenous peoples of the fourth world who are engaged in the self-determination process, seeking to assert their political voice and integrity along with their economic, cultural and social perpetuation and development. Increasingly we are recognizing that these voices that must be heard, and for them to be heard in the electronic realm is essential. The voices of the indigenous peoples of the world engaged in the process of self-determination can help provide the content that makes the use of the technology meaningful and useful in a real way.
A hierarchy of information has been proposed, from bottom to top, as follows: data, information, knowledge, intelligence, wisdom. The Indigenous people of the world already hold the ancient wisdom. The question is, can their wisdom be translated into data and information in a way that preserves its essence, while allowing us to take advantage of the modern technologies that are available to distribute and share this wisdom in the form of data, to make a real difference in the future of humanity.
It is our premise that the swiftly evolving information and communication technologies and networking infrastructures are playing an expanding role in supporting the self-determination of peoples and emergent nations, and in this paper we look to explore the present reality and future possibilities in this regard.
In his essay ''Cyberocracy is Coming,'' David Ronfeldt describes the importance of information technologies in terms of politics and power. ''The distribution of power and the prospects for cooperation and conflict are increasingly seen as a function of the differing abilities of governments and other political entities to utilize new technologies.''  'Other political entities' would certainly include self-determination movements.
Access to information and facilitation of communication provides new and enhanced opportunities for participation in the process of self-determination, with the potential to enhance political, economic, social, educational and cultural advancement beyond the scope of traditional institutions and forms of governance.
We assess the current resources, trends and potentials in this area, with examples of successful utilization of communications models and technologies for direct peaceful empowerment of peoples, particularly indigenous peoples, along with some limitations that must also be considered.
Self-determination struggles may benefit from the ability to form ''virtual communities.'' The situation of peoples who are involved with these struggles is often one of dispersion, having been forced away from their homeland for military, political or economic reasons.
Thus the body of people capable of participating in the self-determination process may be expanded through access to communications technology.
Tibet forms a clear example of a situation where both politically and technically, access from within the territory itself is extremely limited, but by the government-in-exile working in partnership with its people and various supporters around the world, a vital cyberspace community is being established to further the purposes of the people of Tibet.
Each indigenous people and fourth world nation has its own distinct history and current political situation, yet there is much in common between all in their struggles for political identity, voice, and recognition, and sovereignty over their land and natural resources. Each group on it's own may feel isolated and disempowered if unable to see themselves in the larger picture. But the establishment of relations between various fourth world peoples can provide benefits in a number of ways, by sharing experiences, resources, and insights so that those who have learned in one way or another can share their knowledge, and by coordinating actions for solidarity and enhanced effectiveness.
The electronic media provides vast opportunities for such networking. As David Ronfeldt writes, as new ''organizational networks are built, cutting across ... national borders and interests, influential sub- and supra-national actors may increasingly compete for influence with national actors. As political and economic interests grow in protecting and expanding the networks, the networks themselves may increasingly take precedence over nation-states as the driving factor in domestic and foreign affairs.'' 
Native communities have been actively engaged in creating and utilizing such networks with increasing participation and sophistication.
Dan Pacheco quotes Turtle Heart, a native American artist who uses the Internet:
One prime example is the NativeWeb ( http://www.nativeweb.org ), which contains extensive information about a range of native subjects, geographic regions, and cultural groups, along with material on native literature, languages, newsletters and journals, organizations, and bibliographies. NativeWeb also provides pointers to other native information resources, including WWW sites, Gopher and FTP Sites, UseNet Newsgroups, and Listserv lists. There are well over two dozen newsgroups and Listserv lists related to indigenous issues, including education, health, language, law, spirituality, and ecology.
Glenn Welker is one of the principle maintainers of NativeWeb, and contributes extensive information on the situation in Chiapas, Mexico. He writes about his work networking indigenous people together, that they have ''so much beautiful literature, stories, fables, etc. that not many people know about. Also, my hope is that what I am doing is helping to educate non-native people. In doing that, I hope there can be better understanding between their 2 worlds. Based on the number of e-mail messages and contributions of poetry, stories, etc., I definitely know that my work is being appreciated.''
Another positive benefit is the access to informational resources which are invaluable for those people engaged in self-determination struggles.
As peoples seek to increase their self-governance and control over their land and natural resources, and for some to gain recognition as sovereign countries, access to international legal tools is essential, and being able to access these documents instantaneously can provide significant advantages. For example, advocates can access directly into the United Nations for relevant materials, such as those resolutions mentioned above.
Numerous other sources also exist to access valuable international information.
Microstate Resources is a virtual library on the World Wide Web, ''designed for decision makers, business people, scholars, tourists--anyone interested in the affairs of very small countries, autonomous territories, colonies and similar domains. Through MR, microstate cybernauts gain immediate access to the widest range of online data available pertaining to microstates.'' 
Documents specifically related to indigenous issues can be found at the Fourth World Documentation Project, organized by the Center For World Indigenous Studies (CWIS) out of Washington State, USA, in 1992. Its mission is to
Human rights information is available from a wide range of sources electronically to help people understand their rights and combat abuses of those rights by having the proper information. One Human Rights Gopher includes information from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Amnesty International (AI), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights in China (HRIC), Human Rights Watch (HRW), PEN, and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). (gopher://gopher.humanrights.org:5000/)
A vast range of resources regarding sustainable development can be accessed electronically, to assist the self-determination process on the very tangible level of providing sustenance to the people in a sustainable manner. One resource, developed here in Hawaii as part of the Earth Day effort, is the Earth Wave Directory, which provides links to numerous other sites for environmental and sustainable development resources. (http://www.aloha.net/epf/dsg/directory.html)
Finally, resources which can be accessed via the net include not only the files which reside in cyberspace, but also the contacts with the people who put them there, and the growing number of experts, scholars, attorneys, etc. who also have access to cyberspace. For example, the Nation of Hawaii regularly communicates via e-mail with our international legal counsel, Prof. of International Law Francis A. Boyle, at the University of Illinois College of Law. Requests for advice and opinions on important matters can be handled in an efficient and timely manner using the network, and Prof. Boyle can stay effectively involved in the development of the Nation from a distance in a way that would be much less convenient without these technologies.
Politics is voice. Political independence means having one's own voice, representing one's own people, in the international arena.
Having a presence on regional and global information networks expands the voice of emergent nations and peoples with electronic forums to focus international attention and support toward specific self-determination issues and efforts.
The Nation of Hawaii, as an example, established our presence on the World Wide Web (http://hawaii-nation.org/nation/) in December of 1994, in order to provide information regarding the legal foundation for the restoration of Hawaiian independence, along with cultural perspectives from the people of Hawaii. The site includes legal documentation, current and historical information, news articles, and links to related resources in and about Hawaii on the World Wide Web.
We now receive an average of around 600 hits per week to our home page, and through our guest book registrations we have developed an electronic mailing list of hundreds of people (predominantly from North America and Europe) who now form a network of supporters who we can keep informed and activate when needed. We also have set up an automated document retrieval system ([email protected]) to provide legal and related information about the Nation to those who don't have access to the Web. We post materials in related newsgroups as well, such as alt.culture.hawaii.
One noteworthy aspect of the Nation's guest book is the number of United States government representatives from a variety of offices who have signed in and let us know that they have visited our site. For each one that has signed in, certainly many others have seen the information and chosen not to register. Because many U.S. government offices now have access to the Web, this seems to be quite an effective medium to share this important information. By signing in to our guest book they are also in a sense acknowledging the legitimacy of what they have seen there. This positive education within the occupying government is essential for a smooth and peaceful transition to restore independence.
As David Ronfeldt suggests, ''recognition is spreading in governments around the world that the new technologies may profoundly alter the nature of political power, sovereignty, and governance.'' 
While numerous self-determination struggles have included armed resistance on one side against police/military oppression by occupying colonial forces on the other side, it is becoming obvious that armed violence on either side rarely, if ever, produces a lasting resolution to the issues of sovereignty or betters the conditions of the people.
It may be possible that the increasing use of computers and communications technologies can help to reduce the physical confrontations, and bring the battles more into the virtual realm where effective access to and dissemination of information become the best ''weapons'' a people can have.
From the movements' perspective, violence is often resorted to when all other avenues seem exhausted, and by providing empowerment through information, the range of options that are available to make progress without violence is expanded.
From the states' point of view, military or police action seems much less attractive when the world is watching, and information networks allow the world to watch in new and often relatively uncontrollable ways.
For these reasons, it is hoped that the use of these technologies can assist in the peaceful resolution of sovereignty conflicts and the positive expression of the self-determination of peoples.
Kurt Mills writes that
In this case access to the communication did not prevent violence, but increasingly, as a movement can notify supporters and the world at large instantaneously of potential violence against it, the more likely they are to prevent that violence by bringing worldwide attention and pressure to bear.
As Jeff Delisio of the Free Tibet Home Page writes, ''It is clear that little non-violent pressure can be applied if people are in the dark about a conflict. After an initial outpouring of sympathy the Tibetans were largely left to languish by the rest of the world. Only through the deliberate perseverance of the Dalai Lama and others did their cause begin to bubble to the surface again. I think that will only increase dramatically by coordinated sharing of information, electronic petitions, etc.'' 
The limitation of this is that those regimes most likely to enact violence are also those least likely to provide access to communications technology to those who might oppose it internally, for this very reason. The technologies are a double edge sword. To the degree that these technologies are restricted to those already in power, they may serve to keep them in power. But to the degree that the world community is able to distribute these technologies and provide access to the grassroots and progressive elements of society, the more they may contribute to the peaceful and positive resolution of sovereignty and self-determination issues.
Hawaii is one example today of a peaceful self-determination process, in which the de facto occupying governments - the United States and the State of Hawaii - have conceded their illegitimacy and are willfully engaging the re-emerging Nation of Hawaii in a peaceful process of transition.
No guns have been fired, no bombs have exploded, yet the people's assertions of their rights to freely determine their political status are being heard and taken seriously, and are being put into effect as an operational model of self-governance. Our ''weapons'' are Macintoshes with fax/modems, firing off international law and self-determination information, and with that the movement has successfully and peacefully advanced.
While it is difficult to say exactly to what degree the use of information and communications technologies have affected this process, clearly they have played a positive role, and in this we hope that Hawaii can serve as an example for the world.
In his essay ''Cyberocracy is Coming'' David Ronfeldt coined the term ''cyberocracy,'' meaning ''rule by way of information'' to describe possibilities of new forms of governing in the information age. He posits that information and it's control will become a dominant source of power, as a natural next step in our political evolution. 
We would add to this another related term: ''cyberplomacy,'' diplomacy via the information media, the interaction of governments in cyberspace.
For self-determination struggles attempting to emerge (or reemerge) as nations, one place that a presence as a nation can exist is in cyberspace, to enhance legitimacy and visibility as a real entity.
One criterion for independence, for being a sovereign country, is having a territory. In cyberspace, the parallel could be drawn of a virtual territory, the presence on the WWW, the Home Page being the capital and all the related documents being the territory. A number of recognized countries have such a territory in cyberspace, and increasingly unrecognized nations are mapping out their own cyber-territories.
Another criterion for independence is international relations, and the parallel here would be ''internetional relations.'' Many peoples and nations with limited ability to travel and conduct diplomatic affairs may utilize the electronic ability to initiate and/or develop relations with other governments, both recognized and unrecognized.
Tibet provides a good example of cyberplomacy. Though the Tibetan government's territory is currently occupied by China, the government-in-exile is able to have a presence or territory in cyberspace, along with their physical presence in India, where they can organize their people and carry on relations around the world.
While it is tempting to expound on the potential benefits of electronic communications for a freer and more self-determined world, we must also temper the enthusiasm for these technologies with a realistic view as to the limitations, particularly regarding access in less developed regions of the world. While there may be CD-ROM development going on in monasteries in India and interactive video in sub-zero Alaska, many areas of the world which could certainly benefit greatly from this access do not have it.
Ronfeldt warns of the need for distribution of these technologies and freedom of access. ''A new distinction is emerging between the information 'haves' and 'have-nots.' Some actors may become global information powers, but others, notably in the Third World, fear 'electronic colonization' and 'information imperialism.' ''  If this is true of Third World countries in relation to First World, then Fourth World nations are at an even greater disadvantage, and in greater need of assistance to gain access and make positive use of the technologies.
Webb also points out that based upon his experience working in the developing world, he projects that the potential take-up of any internet services will be predominantly male, urban and probably major/capital city oriented, as well as socially elite.
This leads to another aspect of providing access beyond the elite, and that is public terminals that can be widely used for communication and research. While the ubiquity of computers with modem lines in each household is becoming a reality in some of the most technically advanced areas, public terminals are much more realistic for most areas, even in developed countries, and offer a relatively economically and technically feasible and efficient method to provide the possibility of broader access. Locations such as libraries, schools, universities, postal offices, community centers, cafes, and other meeting places can be equipped with terminals designed for ease of interface and durability of use. Training for the use and maintenance of these services would also be important.
One other issue limiting access is language, and it is important to consider this as material is developed for the Web and other information servers. This includes both the valuable efforts to perpetuate native languages electronically (through special fonts, sound files, software applications, etc.) and the mirroring of sites in different languages. Part of NativeWeb, for example, is also provided in Spanish, and a number of other examples exist as well.
One solution to the issue of access, which depends more on personal relations and less on institutional actions by first world entities, is to develop effective partnerships between those with the technical ability and the access and those with the issues and the content.
For instance, Karen Strom has provided WWW presences for a wide range of Native American tribes, organizations, museums, and projects, all of which are hosted on her server at the University of Massachusetts. Similarly, the NativeWeb, including extensive information about the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Ecuador, is hosted on a server at the University of Kansas and mirrored at the University of Massachusetts.
Strom sees setting up and hosting Web pages as a valuable service, but also as only the first step.
Partnerships are a good first step to get information up remotely. A range of services could be provided, in various combinations, depending on the resources and needs, including providing the physical site and/or the HTML design work or other systems design.
The long term goal is to provide assistance toward each entity having it's own server. Seeing the material online, and receiving the positive feedback and experiencing the direct results of this presence, can provide the incentive to move into a more active participation with the net. Further technical and financial support systems can then be employed for this step, utilizing and expanding on the partnerships that are already in place.
Hawaii's unique political, economic, technical, and geographic situation provides the opportunity to play a distinctly important role in the transition to the information age.
The Nation of Hawaii is moving from the fourth world to the third/first world politically, yet is on the forefront of the current technology explosion. Hawaii seeks to align with countries and peoples who are in a similar position politically but without the same advantages technically, in order to provide high-tech services for those nations not currently capable, and to act as a clearinghouse of information to facilitate contact with others who could assist in the process, wherever they may be in the world.
As discussed above, the physical site to host Web pages and other information servers could reside in Hawaii to carry material from Pacific island nations and other native peoples. For example, the Nation has recently begun hosting a site (and formatting documents) for the International Indian Treaty Council to provide a presence for information on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Indigenous Treaty Study currently being carried out by a special rapporteur of the United Nations. We have been contacted by the Chamorro people of Guam to host some of the materials relating to their self-determination efforts, and have discussed working with Land Rights Queensland (Australia) on Aboriginal issues, until they are able to establish their own server, and perhaps continue to mirror their site. Such assistance could include the HTML design work, converting source material into an interactive presence.
Again, the long term goal would be to move these materials onto their own servers in full control of those directly responsible for their content, but to help provide the technical assistance, incentive, and training to progress one step at a time as they are able.
Another useful service would be the creation of a page of links pointing to good places to register new pages, as a resource to assist those who are just getting their virtual presence established. Web pages are useless if no one knows they are there, and there are no strands put in place to link them to the rest of the Web. Rather than leave it up to each new webmaster to figure out how to promote their pages, a service could be provided to help establish links to new pages so they will be found by those interested in seeing them.
The Nation of Hawaii also plans to develop a comprehensive links center for Fourth World and newly emerging nations as they come online, and to initiate appropriate corresponding newsgroups and listservers to facilitate the development of networks to empower self-determination movements with access to information.
Through such cyberplomacy, the Nation of Hawaii hopes to facilitate the peaceful resolution of sovereignty issues and the positive expression of self-determination efforts, and perhaps even to serve as the host to a new virtual gathering of self-determined peoples and nations allied for a secure and sustainable future.
The authors would like to express our mahalo to Mr. Apple Pi (Essential Process Facilitation - [email protected]), Daniel Cohen (The Daily Planet BBS, Maui - [email protected]), and Rolf Nordahl (MacMouse Club, Waikiki - [email protected]) for their valuable input into this paper and support of the Nation of Hawaii's electronic development.
(Please contact [email protected] for e-mail addresses of the references below.)
 UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, 947th plenary meeting, 14 December 1960.
 UN General Assembly resolution 49/148, Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, Forty-ninth session, 7 February 1995.
 UN General Assembly resolution 48/163, International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, 86th plenary meeting, 21 December 1993.
 R. Griggs, The Meaning of 'Nation' and 'State' in the Fourth World, University of Capetown, Copyright 1992, Center for World Indigenous Studies.
 D. Ronfeldt, "Cyberocracy is Coming," Copyright Taylor & Francis, 1992.
 K. Mills, (Department of Government and International Studies, University of Notre Dame) in the International Relations and National Sovereignty Listserv discussion group ([email protected]), 19 April 1995.
 J. Delisio, e-mail correspondence, 26 April 1995.
 Pacheco, Dan, ''Tribal elders finding role for wizardry of Internet,'' The Denver Post, March 30, 1995.
 Welker, Glenn, e-mail correspondence, 22 April 95.
Leventhal, Microstate Resources Home Page.
 D. Ronfeldt, ibid, from an interview with Regis Debray, as excerpted and quoted in Harper's Magazine, April 1986, p. 18.
 K. Webb, (Director of Studies, International Conflict Analysis Programme, Graduate School of International Relations, Rutherford College, University of Kent) in the International Relations and National Sovereignty Listserv discussion group ([email protected]), 20 April 1995.
 K. Webb, ibid, 25 April 1995.
 K. Strom, e-mail correspondence, 26 April 1995.
Scott P. Crawford ([email protected]) is the Director of Communications for the Nation of Hawaii and the lead designer of the Nation's WWW Home Page (http://www.hawaii-nation.org/). He received a B.A. in American Studies and English from Tufts University in 1990.
Kekula P. B.
Crawford ([email protected]) serves a
Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Nation of Hawai`i.
Executive Office, Nation of Hawai`i, Post Office Box 401,
Waimanalo, Oahu, 96795 Hawai`i