Report Summary: A Step in the Decolonization Process: Free Association

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A Step in the Decolonization Process: Free Association, by Gudmundur Afredsson, Danish Institute for International Studies, 24 May 2023, 3 pages. Digital acces:


This seminar paper examines the prospect of free association for Greenland in its relationship to Denmark as a next step in the decolonisation process, noting that this process can end in full independence or integration. The paper is short in length, and is essentially a listing of issues to be considered.

The paper begins by explaining that free association is consistent with UN resolutions and gives concrete examples that show that the concept is broad and flexible. It then focuses on the implications for Greenland. It discusses briefly issues such as how Greeland should come to a view on how to proceed, who would be eligible to participate in this process, financial arrangements with Denmark, and consistency with Greenland’s 2009 self-governance agreement with Denmark.

The paper stresses that free association is only one possible step in the process towards full independence for Greenland. It also notes that nothing is preventing an agreement for free association with countries other than Denmark, for instance with the US, and that an agreement could have major benefits for indigenous people worldwide. It concludes by noting that Denmark's 1918 personal union with Iceland might suggest a way forward.

This summary is written by Anna Thomsen, Intern at the Danish Foreign Policy Society on a Metcalf Research Grant from the University of Chicago and undergraduate student at the University of Chicago studying Political Science and Eastern European Studies, with a focus on the Balkans as well as the Russia-Ukraine war.