The breakdown of Communism at the end of the 1980s put into motion turbulent changes in the global system. Probably the most significant of these changes concerns the role of the sovereignty principle and human rights in international politics. It seems that these two concepts once again have been placed on a collision course with each other.
This paper aims to link the evolution of the major issues of past discourse to the core post-Cold War dilemmas. Consequently, it touches upon: historical roots of the modern concept of sovereignty; the shift in the focus of sovereignty discourse and the emergence of the non-intervention principles; ‘degrees’ of sovereignty: absolute versus relative sovereignty; the politics of the non-intervention principle; the legality of external interference in internal matters; the status of human rights in international relations; humanitarian intervention and international relations theory.
The paper ends with a tentative assessment of the challenges posed to the post-Westphalian concept of sovereignty by massive protection and assistance claims of both internally and externally displaced persons in the early post-Cold War era.