Human Rights in the Discourse on Sovereignty: The United States, Russia and NATO's Intervention in Kosovo


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Virginia Tech


The concept of sovereignty has been a contestable idea throughout history, and its meaning has oftentimes transformed to reflect prevailing systemic conditions and political priorities of major actors in each historical period. In this study, I argue that the social construction of state sovereignty is at the beginning stages of another major redefinition. In an era of globalization and regional integration, discourse on sovereignty has become increasingly prolific as the rhetoric of sovereignty moves away from Westphalian principles that were based exclusively on the agency of independent states. Furthermore, multinational campaigns to promote international human rights engender a discourse that suggests the idea of sovereignty is changing. Does this emerging discourse confirm the growing legitimacy of humanitarian intervention, or is it merely a discursive trend in international relations that does not indicate significant change in state perception and behavior? The purpose of this work is to address this question.



Kosovo, humanitarian intervention, human rights, sovereignty