International law is the umbrella of legal frameworks that govern global interaction. It covers everything from telecommunications and shipping to preserving indigenous cultures and human rights. It is the work of international lawyers to navigate these overlapping and often complex relationships, helping countries negotiate agreements with other nations, as well as with their own citizens. International lawyers are on the front lines of global politics, brokering giant deals that take years to resolve and have enormous real-world implications.
The main tenet of international law is state sovereignty, the principle that states are sovereign and can’t be subject to rules made by other governments or bodies. The concept of state sovereignty is relatively new, arising as the world’s various political entities organised themselves into nation-states in the 18th and 19th centuries. The concept has given rise to a range of international organisations, such as the United Nations and regional bodies such as the European Union, that develop their own rules and treaties.
These laws, however, cannot solve global injustices on their own. They are an inherently flawed mechanism that is dependent upon the will of states. The guiding principle is that states will only abide by treaties and other international obligations if they feel it will be in their best interests. This can create a range of paradoxes, including the fact that international law protects the right to torture and other forms of inhumane treatment by state officials, but does not protect individuals from such conduct.