An important message from the entire Kosovo-Serbia experience, highlighted by today’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling is this: treat your minorities well*.
If you abuse minority populations; if you give special privileges to majorities or any “chosen” group in a society; if you fan the flames of nationalism for political gain; if devise political structures which systematically deny a voice to minority populations; if you seek to eliminate or marginalize certain ethnic groups within your territory… you are playing with fire.
Those frustrated with the ICJ over Kosovo are saying the ruling will cause more separatist groups around the world to seek independence. Perhaps it will. But sovereign nations have tremendous advantages at their disposal in this struggle. Those advantages can be defined (and then employed) by asking these questions:
Do the minorities inside your territory…
- enjoy all of the freedoms defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
- have duly elected and effective representation at the federal, state, and local levels?
- have legislative and executive control over the sub-territories where they are in a majority?
- have access to and representation at all levels of the nation’s judicial mechanisms?
- enjoy the full and equal benefits of your nation’s educational and health systems?
- participate fully in an integrated economic system with a level playing field?
Sovereign governments which flinch at these questions are likely the same ones which felt a little queasy after hearing the ICJ ruling on Kosovo today.
*with apologies to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.