The world’s newest country was born on Sunday, and world politics is in full gear. Most western countries, including the U.S., UK, Denmark and Australia, have recognised Kosovo. Russia and China are biting their lips, however, and will likely veto an official UN recognition. Their reaction is understandable, because they fear a trend of secession in other places, notably Chechnya and Tibet.
National pride and a quest for power is an understandable feeling, especially to an avid Civilization player like myself. But the world of today, supposedly long after the end of colonialism, ought not to harbour such attitudes. Nationalism only evolved in the 19th century, and it should have no prominent position in the 21st. As the world has grown smaller, and borders diminished, being part of a nation-state means less than being part of a global economy and culture. Hence the rise of regionalism which – in Europe, for instance – results in smaller countries, but greater integration.
We went to war in Kosovo to protect an ethnic group from genocide; mandated in no small part by the UN declaration of Human Rights. This document, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, states for instance that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country” (Article 13,1) and that “Everyone has the right to a nationality” (Article 15,1). But it still assumes the existence of countries.
The concepts of nationhood and borders are, like most societal structures, a human construction. Nothing mandates that people should have different rights just from being born on either side of a line on a map. Fundamental change is probably unlikely, but there should at least – as in the case of Kosovo – be an undeniable right for a group or region to leave a country and declare independence. This means recognising the free existence of entities such as Chechnya, Tibet, Taiwan, Greenland, Kashmir, Quebec, Scotland, and others that may so please.