International Law and Its Legitimacy

international law

As the world has become more globalized, international law has also increased in scope. Through the colonial expansion of European powers, international law became geographically international. After World War II, decolonization led to the establishment of scores of independent states. International law now encompasses many governmental matters, from the relationship between an individual and their state, to migration and environmental issues. While its scope has grown dramatically, it still has many areas that aren’t fully explored.

One aspect of international law that is frequently overlooked is its de facto legitimacy. In Bentham’s classical definition, international law is “rules that govern relations among states.” While this is true in the traditional sense, more recent interpretations have found international law to be a vastly more complicated set of rules and practices. Besides states, international law also encompasses norms that were created before state formation, such as those referred to as jus cogens.

Although the Security Council has used its enforcement powers in recent years, many grave breaches of international law haven’t been met with enforcement action. As a result, international law lacks a centralized dispute settlement system. In this way, the ICJ can play an important role in resolving conflicts. But it is not without its limitations. The UN’s Human Rights Council is a prime example of this. Its mandated mandate is to protect the rights of the people of a particular country.

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