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The ongoing reconfiguration of the international political system at the turn of the twenty-first century points to the need for a range of self-determination options for peoples around the globe. This article outlines the basic features of free association, one of the three options for a self-determining people under General Assembly Resolution 1541. An association is formed when two states of unequal power voluntarily establish durable links. In the basic model, one state, the associate, delegates certain responsibilities to the other, the principal, while maintaining its international status as a state. Free associations represent a middle ground between integration and independence. International legal scholars and practitioners should not neglect the potential benefits of free association in designing legal and political relationships within and between states.
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