In recent years, the right to self-determination has been prone to abuse because of the uncertainties as to its proper operation outside the decolonisation context. This article revisits the content and role of self-determination in light of the recent assertions of this right, with particular reference to Kosovo and Crimea. It examines different facets of this right, and whether it holds an intrinsic link to a democratic form of government. The right to self-determination encompasses the right of a people to choose freely their own political system and to pursue their own economic, social, and cultural development. However, states have no duty in positive international law to introduce or maintain a democratic form of government as a requirement for the realisation of the right to self-determination. Moreover, democracy, construed narrowly as the majority rule of an electoral process, is not a guarantee of the realisation of the right to self-determination. This article will test the extent to which democracy and the development of human rights law have impacted upon the content, limitations and exercise of the right to self-determination.