Earned Sovereignty: Bridging the Gap Between Sovereignty and Self-Determination

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2004


In Bosnia, 250,000 civilians were killed and over one million displaced in a campaign of genocide carried out by Serbia in response to Bosnia's declaration of independence from the former Yugoslavia. ... Each case of earned sovereignty is characterized by an initial stage of shared sovereignty, whereby the state and substate entity may both exercise some sovereign authority and functions over a defined territory. ... Phased sovereignty entails the accumulation by the substate entity of increasing sovereign authority and functions over a specified period of time prior to the determination of final status. ... While Serbia and Montenegro, Northern Ireland, Bougainville, and the Western Sahara share sovereignty with a central authority, in the cases of Kosovo and East Timor, the substate entity shares sovereign authority and functions with international organizations during an interim period prior to a determination of final status. ... The massacre also added greater legitimacy to Kosovar claims for independence. ... This lack of coordination on the part of the international community, particularly the hesitation on the part of the United Nations to transfer authority to the Kosovars and undertake a process for determining final status as required by Resolution 1244 effectively derailed the approach of earned sovereignty, leaving Kosovo with an undefined and stagnant status.