In 2014, the Scots were faced with a big decision about the direction of their region. If they had decided to separate, they would have become the newest state in the world.
Looking at the recent history of the world, we find that borders are changing faster than we think, in an increasingly tense international context. Changes, of course, bring new challenges and instability.
South Sudan is the newest state in the world. It gained independence on July 9, 2011, separating itself from the majority Arab provinces after a civil war that lasted for decades. The US also played an important role in getting the status. But the young state is confronted with major problems, including generalized poverty, internal conflicts between the many political groups and unexploited natural resources. Degeneration in another civil war caused the exodus of 1 million people.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. The area has been under UN administration since 1999 when NATO forced the withdrawal of Slobodan Milosevic’s troops from the strongly ethnicized province. The state has not been recognized by all UN member states, and for security reasons, it has not even asked to be part of the organization. The major problems of this new state are weak economy, high unemployment, and ethnic division.
In 2006, Serbia and Montenegro separated into two states after proclaiming a state union in 2003. Montenegro’s referendum was decisive, with the people voting for the end of the union. Since independence, Montenegro has applied for the EU, entered the World Trade Organization and recalled the royal family from exile. Overall, the country has a favorable evolution. Serbia also follows pro-European policies, while maintaining traditional co-operation with Russia.
East Timor gained independence on May 20, 2002, although the referendum that ruled in favor of it was organized years ago. But after that, the region was subjected to violence by pro-Indonesian militias, and the UN sent forces for stabilization. But it was too late, the Indonesian punishment expedition caused great human losses and most East Timor infrastructure was destroyed. The country’s evolution is a good one, thanks to profits from large oil reserves.
It is also worth mentioning South Ossetia, a separatist zone in Georgia whose independence declared since 1990 was only recognized in the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 but only by a small number of states such as Russia, Nicaragua or Venezuela. The country, therefore, has only a very limited recognition, being one of those gray areas of frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space. Political dissensions and precarious economic conditions keep Ossetia in a permanent tension.