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Nations and states,
sovereignty and self-determination

 Kosovo Solution Series # 7


PressInfo # 215

 March 31, 2005


Aleksandar Mitic, TFF Associate & Jan Oberg, TFF director


Relevant background links for this series here.

May we recommend that you get hold of a copy of the UNDP's, Human Development Report of 2004 with the title, Cultural Liberty in Today's Diverse World? It's a rich source on the problems we seek to deal with here. It informs us that the world's nearly 200 countries include some 5,000 ethnic groups. Two-thirds of all countries have more than one ethnic or religious minority group that make up at least 10 per cent of the people. Thus, one way or another every country is a multicultural society. No less than 44 per cent of the people living in Toronto, Canada was born outside Canada. There are some 300 million indigenous people in 70 countries representing 4,000 of the world's 6,000 languages.

The Minorities at Risk project at the University of Maryland estimates that 129 groups, or 518 million people, with a distinct identity face cultural (or living mode) discrimination and disadvantage. Further, 191 groups, or 832 million people, with a distinct identity can be judged to suffer political discrimination, and finally 189 distinct groups, or 750 million people, are faced with economic discrimination and marginalisation. Using this set of data, unique as they are, 509 groups or slightly more than 2 billion people feel excluded in our world. (It goes without saying that many are hit by more than one type of exclusion and, thus, the total number of repressed people is smaller than 2 billion).

But one may convincingly argue that the solution to this can not be to create 509 new independent countries. The solution is to learn to live differently, in tolerance, and making the world safer for difference. To argue that Kosovo as an independent country is the only solution is, thus viewed, to make a mockery of hundreds of millions of people's similar suffering. No responsible decision-maker would ever argue that all other suffering groups and minorities (of which many have suffered considerably more than the Kosovo-Albanians) have an indisputable right to be granted a status of independent state. For, after all, who would argue that a world of about 700+ countries - with borders, national military defence, ethnic exclusion, etc. - would be a more manageable and peaceful place?

Renowned peace researcher and TFF Associate, Johan Galtung, says in his book Searching for Peace, that "the general point of departure is a simple assumption: the higher the number of alternatives to the awesome dichotomy status quo in a unitary state vs. secession-independence, the lower, ceteris paribus, the probability of violence…In no way should this imply that self-determination as a human right is given up but that the right to self-determination is linked to a duty to conflict transformation."

Serbia has given up on the first. Will the Albanians and the international community be able to give up on the second and reduce the general risk of renewed violence in the future? Will the right to self-determination in Kosovo be linked intimately to prior conflict-resolution and reconciliation? Or, differently put, will self-determination be made conditional upon a will to settle the basic conflicts first so self-determination will not release new violence? And will it be emphasised that self-determination does not mean automatic secession and independence because one group, no matter how big (the Albanians), can not have a right to ignore the right to self-determination of other groups (the Kosovo Serbs and other minorities)?

Says Galtung, "The right to self-determination is an extremely important human right but it should not be interpreted as an automatic right to secession, independence and recognition by the inter-state community as a state…The right to self-determination is the right of a people to determine their status within a state, and by implication in the world, including the option of independence and the option of status quo. But, regardless the decision, a right to autonomy at a low or high level is not a right to be autistic, disregarding others completely, just like the right to free speech does not imply the right to disregard the consequences of exercising that right. There is an overriding principle of responsibility." (Italics added).



UNSC Resolution 1244 and the Standards for Kosovo


And by that we come to the problems of the two basic legal documents of the Kosovo conflict resolution process, UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of June 10, 1999 and the Standards for Kosovo of 2003 that outlines the target goals for the province. The degree of achievement of these goals shall be evaluated this summer 2005. Depending on that evaluation, talks about the future status of Kosovo shall begin.

What is the main content of UNSC Res. 1244? First, it "bears in mind" that the aim is to maintain international peace and security. This must be interpreted to mean that the solution for Kosovo has a wider framework than just Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo; it must produce international peace. The resolution aims to provide for the safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons to their home. That can not mean only the Albanians and others who had fled at the time; the principle must apply also to the people who have been driven out by the Albanian leadership since then.

Of basic importance for a resolution is the paragraph "reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act" followed directly by "Reaffirming the call in previous resolutions for substantial autonomy and meaningful self-administration for Kosovo." The resolution goes on to determine the nature of the international presence and its responsibilities - and here, regrettably, it must be concluded that during the past 6 years, a number of these responsibilities have not been met.

Thus, the international presence has far from managed to deter renewed hostilities (neither inside Kosovo nor in Southern Serbia and in Macedonia both of which have clear-cut connections with Kosovo-Albanian hardliners, March 2004 ethnic violence); it is highly doubtful that the Kosovo Liberation Army and other armed groups were really disarmed and that there remains no weapons in today's Kosovo. Furthermore, the international presence has not been able to establish a secure environment in which refugees and displaced persons can return in safety.

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Resolution 1244 stipulate that the international civil presence shall "provide an interim administration for Kosovo under which the people of Kosovo can enjoy substantial autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and which will provide transitional administration while establishing and overseeing the development of provisional democratic self-governing institutions to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants of Kosovo." Elsewhere the words "substantial autonomy" and "self-government" is reiterated.

In Resolution 1244 "self-governing" is mentioned 3 times, "self-government" 4 times, "self-administration" 1 time, "substantial autonomy" 3 times whereas neither "self-determination" nor "independence" is mentioned in the document. The "sovereignty" of Yugoslavia is mentioned 3 times.

Given the substance of this Security Council Resolution - what it states and does not state - it is remarkable that the international presence, the UN in particular, has never publicly emphasised that full independence is not stated (and not made possible) within the framework and words of UNSC Res 1244. By not stating this clearly, the international community has psychologically endorsed, indeed, promoted the self-determination-secession-independence policy in the minds of the Albanian leaders and, thereby, the Albanian citizens of Kosovo. They have very understandable reasons to believe that what they are moving towards is independence. This is what their leaders have told them were the only solution for more than 15 years (and remember the average age of the population in Kosovo is 25).

The political body language of the international community as well as of its pro-Albanian lobbyists - anti-Serb and anti-Belgrade interpretations throughout the conflict, bombings and intimate co-operation in Kosovo with leaders whose only policy goal was independence with or without weapons - have sent one unmistakable signal: that independence is a real possibility. According to the highest authority, the UN Security Council, it is not.

The most recent example of such creation of false expectations came on March 29, 2005 when Express carried an interview with outgoing OSCE Head of Mission in Pristina Pascal Fieschi. Commenting on Kosovo's future status and asked about the possibility of an independent country, Fieschi was quoted as saying, "Why not? It all depends on you, it depends from the citizens of Kosovo, how they behave, their policies and the standards. Nothing is automatic and nothing comes from the skies. Why not, even independence. No one rules out this possibility."

If the international community cannot deliver on that later, there is all reason to believe that the Kosovo-Albanians will show their anger and disappointment.

Please see TFF PressInfo 71 from June 18, 1999 for a further critique of this Resolution.


The Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan can be downloaded on UNMIK's website. It describes the Standards in thi manner:

"The Standards for Kosovo describe a Kosovo where public institutions are representative and democratic, where the rule of law is effective, respected and accessible to all, where those IDPs who wish to are free and able to return to Kosovo without hindrance, threat or intimidation, where all individuals, regardless of ethnic background can travel and work safely, and use their language (and where that use is respected) anywhere and in any institution in Kosovo, where the framework for a functioning market economy is in place and where the Kosovo Protection Corps operates strictly within its mandate; furthermore, the standards describe a Kosovo where Pristina is participating in successful dialogue with Belgrade and where Kosovo is in a stable and peaceful relationship with its regional neighbours. In short, a truly multi-ethnic, stable and democratic Kosovo which is approaching European standards…"

This is what Kosovo shall look like. When it does, negotiations about its status will follow. Although there has been considerable progress, it should be pretty easy to see that there is still a long way to go on almost all points - most importantly perhaps concerning the return of IDPs and a safe environment. The failure of the international community to disarm KLA and prevent the Albanian reverse ethnic cleansing of about 200.000 Serbs and other minority citizens out of Kosovo in the first several months of the international presence (at the time over 40,000 NATO troops) and the fact that virtually no one has come back are major reasons why it should be extremely difficult for the international community to determine that the Standards for Kosovo have all been met by summer 2005.

Indeed, one wonders what political game is being played when high-level international members, including the SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen, hold out the prospect of status talks in September 2005? That requires prior knowledge that the Standards will be satisfied in full in the course of just a couple of months ahead from the time it was stated. However, if things have not moved in the right direction during 5 years, it is a bit difficult to envision them do so and achieve great results in 5 months from now.

Finally, one may observe that the Standards document was evidently written by people who had no professional understanding or feel for the human dimension of conflicts and their resolution. One wonders how all the mentioned Standards shall be achieved without a massive investment in peace education of decision-makers and citizens alike in a broad sense: conflict-understanding, negotiation, reconciliation and forgiveness, empowerment of youth and women, trust-building, media to promote values of co-existence and tolerance and new ways of dealing with the military-macho culture and criminality in various communities in the province.

Without any of that, the Standards will hardly ever produce anything but shallow peace. Deep peace, the introduction of a peace culture and an honest recognition on all sides that the past must be dealt with constructively for all to move forward was effectively ignored by this Standards document. But that may also not have been its true purpose. It rather serves, it seems, to legitimate a kind of secession and integration of Kosovo into the EU. In reality it would probably take at least another decade for Kosovo to qualify for EU membership.

The next PressInfo will outline, therefore, a much broader approach to peace in and around Kosovo.


Recommended literature

Johan Galtung and Carl G. Jacobsen, Searching for Peace. The Road to Transcend. Pluto Press, London 2000.

Hurst Hannum, Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination. The Accomodation of Conflicting Rights, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadeplhia, 1990.

Hugh Miall, The Peacemakers. Peaceful Settlement of Disputes since 1945, Macmillan, London 1992.

United Nations Development Program, UNDP, Human Development Report 2004. Cultural Liberty in Today's Diverse World, UNDP 2000, New York 2004.

Alan Zelim Skurbaty, As If Peoples Mattered. Critical Appraisal of "Peoples" and "Minorities" from the International Human Rights Perspective and Beyond, PhD, Lund University 1998.


The TFF Kosovo Solution Series

# 1
Why the solution in Kosovo matters to the world

# 2
The media - strategic considerations

# 3
The main preconditions for a sustainable solution to the Kosovo conflict

# 4
The situation as seen from Serbia

# 5
The arguments for quick and total independence are not credible

# 6
What must be Belgrade's minimum conditions and its media strategy

# 7
Nations and states, sovereignty and self-determination

# 8
Positive scenarios: Turn to the future, look at the broader perspectives

# 9
Many thinkable models for future Kosovo

# 10
Summary: From "Only one solution" towards democracy and peace


Relevant background links for this series.


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