What Is International Law?

international law

International law is a broad set of rules, guidelines and standards that apply to all states across a range of areas. It can include everything from the rights of refugees to how a state may conduct war. International laws vary from national or domestic laws in that they are generally enforceable only by other countries that consent to be bound by them.

International laws are generally based on treaties, custom and state practice, or judicial decisions. The most important source is the United Nations Charter, which contains the principle that “international law, based on axiomatic truths, should be developed through peaceful means.” There is no superior governing body with the authority to enforce international law, and any attempt by a country to compel another country to comply with an agreement will be subject to the veto of one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Because of this, many countries often only partially follow international agreements. The only way to truly enforce international law is for every country to be fully involved and honest in their participation, so that there are no loopholes. This can be difficult because of the principle of state sovereignty, which allows a country to ignore international agreements if it feels they are not in its best interests. Regardless of these difficulties, the practice of international law can do tremendous good in the world, including increasing trade and decreasing wars. For this reason, it is a good career choice for those who enjoy writing and negotiating, and would like to work towards a better world.

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