Blood and Borders

The Responsibility to Protect and the Problem of the Kin-State

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Inter-ethnic conflict and genocide have demonstrated the dangers of failing to protect people targeted by fellow citizens. When minority groups in one country are targeted for killings or ethnic cleansing based on their group identity, whose responsibility is it to protect them? In particular, are they owed any protective responsibility by their kin-state? How can cross-border kinship ties strengthen greater pannational identity across borders without challenging territorially defined national security? As shown by the Russia-Georgia conflict over South Ossetia, unilateral intervention by a kin-state can lead to conflict within and between states. The protection of national minorities should not be used as an excuse to violate state sovereignty and generate interstate conflict.



Bilateral instruments and mechanisms to protect “kin-minorities” abroad: The case of Hungary’s bilateral agreements with its neighbours and their monitoring through joint intergovernmental commissions

This chapter places bilateral agreements for the protection of minorities and their monitoring mechanisms within an international context and within the context of the concept of the responsibility to protect (R2P). An important element of this concept is the responsibility to prevent violations of human and minority rights. In the area of minority protection, this is ideally achieved through the implementation of appropriate protection mechanisms by the state in which the minority resides. It is, however, widely acknowledged that minority rights are also a matter of legitimate concern to the international community. When one state is home to a minority population constituting the majority in a neighbouring (or nearby) state, situations can arise in which the “home-state” is neglecting its minority, thereby causing internal unrest, and/or in which the “kin-state” is unilaterally pursuing the protection of “its” minority abroad, thereby causing bilateral tensions. Both situations can ultimately result in conflicts that would require action by the international community. This chapter suggests that bilateral agreements, and in particular the joint intergovernmental commissions established for their monitoring, are an expression of the friendly relations among states and a possible means to prevent violations of minority rights or disputes over minority issues from developing into violent conflicts.


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