Ronald Thomas


The cases of Kosovo and South Ossetia provide two opportunities for the community of nations to reconcile the rights of Serbia and Georgia with the rights of the peoples within their borders. Instead of doing so, other countries used these cases for ideological and political posturing and continued to do so as of the end of 2008. This Note will review Kosovo and South Ossetia and attempt to take the politics out of an inherently political decision-whether or not to recognize them as independent states. Part I of this Note will review how the United Nations has approached the issues of autonomy, borders, secession, and minorities. It will also provide background on the doctrines of self-determination and the rights of states. Part II will set out the facts-as they are generally accepted-of Kosovo and South Ossetia and consider the differing opinions regarding independence of the two areas. Part III will review those opinions in light of the goals and doctrines of the United Nations and how it has approached these issues in the past. The Note concludes that recognition of independence of the states should be driven by legal arguments rather than political or social alliances and that the goals of the United Nations are best served by being steadfast in promoting multi-ethnicity within political entities; Kosovo and South Ossetia should be recognized as autonomous regions within Serbia and Georgia, respectively. The Note also concludes that domestic as well as international legal structures must be in place to make autonomy workable.