The world was recently swept by an unexpected new wave of independence referendums in several places, including Iraqi Kurdistan and the Catalonia region of Spain.

The people of the two regions have expressed their will for independence, according to their respective authorities. The government of Catalonia confirmed that 90% of the participants in the referendum voted in favor of secession from Spain but the Spanish government rejected this result, considering that the referendum "did not take place".

The same thing happened a few days ago in the referendum of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Regional Government said the referendum was "a democratic choice of the Kurdish people, who have been subjected to genocide for decades, to make its voice heard." The central government in Baghdad describes the referendum as an unconstitutional attempt to divide Iraq.

Whatever the situation will be in Catalonia and Kurdistan, they are yet new indicators of the decline of the notion of the national State, the increasing signs of disintegration and spread of hostility in various parts of the world.

The problem is that weakening national States undermines the most significant achievements of international relations since the Peace of Westphalia, signed in 1948, whereby the State became the basic unit of international relations. The new entities seeking statehood weaken the national States amidst the current wave of disintegration.

Whatever problems arise from these independence aspirations, they reflect deficiencies in the nation-State, which has not been able to integrate all national components and give them a sense of cultural specificity, nor has it been able to integrate local identities into one national identity as it is supposed to be in federal systems.

The movement in Kurdistan is different from Catalan independentism. In the former, there was external intervention and disintegration in the State, and this gave rise to the growing demands by the Kurds for a final divorce with Baghdad.

The right to self-determination is a subject of debate for political scientists, although the discussions focus on colonial practices and not modern States, which have several structures that ensure pluralism such as autonomy and federalism in many multi-ethnic States.

The opening of the referendum on the right to self-determination seems like a slippery slope in many countries. The United Nations itself cannot open the door to the demands of the right of self-determination through referendums; several countries will oppose this. China, for instance, has concerns about the separatist demands of some of its provinces.

Some may accuse the Kurds of opening the door to the division of Iraq. Nonetheless, what affected Iraq is the sectarian policies of successive governments since 2003. The Iraqi governments' use of Iranian militias has contributed to the fragmentation of the country more than Kurdish separatism would. Moreover, in their demand for independence, the Kurds recalled their bitter experiences with the former Baathist regime. Perhaps now, they found the right opportunity to express their demands.

Overall, the Catalonia and Kurdistan movements are probably not the tip of an iceberg of further separatist waves in the near future. Just in 2014, Scotland chose to stay in the United Kingdom.