What Is International Law?

international law

International law is a system of rules, agreements and treaties that governs how countries interact with each other. Nations make these binding rules, which can be enforced by multilateral or unilateral action, because they believe that doing so promotes the common good and creates a more peaceful world. International laws are a critical component of global governance, ensuring that countries respect each other’s sovereignty and are held accountable for their actions.

International organizations and governments collaborate to define this body of legal rules, which is sometimes referred to as international customary law or customary international law. The United Nations and its related bodies, the International Court of Justice (the “World Court”) and the Interpol network of police agencies, are the primary institutions defining international law.

The majority of international law operates through the peaceful settlement of disputes among states, with the use of force reserved only in the most extreme circumstances and under strict conditions. Other types of international law include treaties and conventions that establish standards for specific areas, such as outer space or the treatment of diplomats, and rules for the conduct of war and peacetime negotiations.

Some of these rules are negotiated through the United Nations or its regional organizations and then agreed upon by all member states, while others are developed through ad hoc tribunals established for limited periods and with substantial UN support. In addition to these institutions, other sources of international law are judicial opinions, writings by jurists and publicists, instructions to diplomatic agents, and arbitral awards.

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