International Law and Peace

A body of principles and guidelines that regulate interactions between nations and other international players is known as a universal law. Its overarching goal is strengthening the global order by fostering collaboration, equity, and peace. Regardless of their strength, all governments should be held to the same legal standards and principles, a central tenet of international law. It can be challenging to put universal law into reality and ensure that it is followed, especially when significant powers choose to disregard or break the rules. However, the ideas of universal law remain essential in preserving peace and advancing justice on a global scale.

What does International Law Define?

International law is a set of rules and regulations that different countries developed for themselves and recognize it as binding in their relations with one another. The law covers a wide range of issues, including the use of force, the settlement of disputes, human rights, the protection of the environment, and the regulation of trade, communications, and other such activities. International law is designed to provide a framework for cooperation and stability in international relations and to promote peace and justice in the world.

Since there is no widely recognised authority to impose it onto sovereign states, international law varies among state-based legal systems because it is chiefly not solely to states, rather than individuals, and operates mainly by consent. This means states can opt out of following universal l law or breaking a treaty if they so desire. However, such transgressions might be greeted with disapproval and, in extreme situations, forceful action, especially when they violate customary universal law and peremptory principles.

Municipal and national legal systems have intricate and nuanced relationships with one another and international law. As a result of accords granting national jurisdiction to global institutions like the European Court of Human Rights and the global Criminal Court, national law may be adopted as international law. In some cases, universal agreements like the Geneva Conventions may necessitate changes to domestic legislation. International legal duties may be implemented or incorporated into domestic law by provisions in national laws or constitutions.

Growth and Standardisation of International Law

In 1947, the General Assembly established the Universal Law Commission to encourage the growth and codification of international law. The Commission's 34 specialists represent the world's major legal systems, but they do it in their capacities rather than in any official one. When necessary, they consult with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Court of Justice, and other relevant UN-specialised organisations on managing relations between states. As part of its duties, the Commission frequently writes drafts dealing with subjects of universal law.

The Commission can decide on its own which issues to investigate, and the General Assembly can also send it questions. When the Commission's work is complete on a particular subject, the General Assembly will occasionally call for a meeting of plenipotentiaries at the international level to incorporate the Commission's work into a convention. States are then invited to sign on as parties to the convention, signalling their commitment to being legally bound by its terms. Several of these treaties serve as the cornerstone of the law that governs diplomatic relations between nations. Some instances are

  • Convention on the Law of Treaties among States and International Bodies or between global Organisations (adopted at a convention in Vienna in 1986);

  • Convention on the Succession of States concerning State Property, Archives, and Debts (adopted at a conference in 1983);

  • Convention on the Prevention and Enforcement of Crimes against Intergovernmental Organizations (adopted at a conference in Vienna in 1983)

The principles and standards of international humanitarian law govern the conduct of armed conflict and the treatment of civilians, the ill and wounded, and prisoners of war. The 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of War Victims and two subsequent protocols signed in 1977 under the aegis of a Universal Committee of the Red Cross are two critical documents.

The United Nations have spearheaded international initiatives to strengthen humanitarian. During times of war, the United Nations Security Council has taken on a more significant role in defending the rights of civilians, especially children and promoting human rights.

Role of Power in International Law

A discussion of power's place in international law. Not only politicians, but power itself, may be alluring. Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under Richard Nixon, famously said, "I find the power to be the ultimate aphrodisiac." However, he never elaborated on how this affected his personal or diplomatic life. Unsurprisingly, Bertrand Russell, writing about power, saw it as humans' greatest aspiration and reward, a view likely shared by many politicians but rarely held by philosophers.

To a greater or lesser extent, lawyers who practise internationally have mixed feelings about authority. Of course, they know that power plays a significant role in all facets of human interaction, particularly in the actions taken by states. However, many people view power as incompatible with the law, particularly with the standards of equality and reciprocity necessary for a legal society. Power politics and, more fundamentally (in Raymond Aron's words), the anarchical universal order where might makes right are often blamed for the failure of international law.

During the last few centuries, when sovereign nations in Europe were establishing and asserting themselves power through edicts & military force, global lawyers developed a deep scepticism of state power. Vittoria, Suarez, and Grotius, the "founding founders" of international law, all denounced sovereigns who violated the jus inter gentes by abusing their power. A century or more later, however, Hobbes, Spinoza, and jurists who believed that state power was essential for maintaining order in a Europe devastated by religious wars and peasant rebellion provided intellectual support for the sovereign power. The great philosopher Spinoza advocated expanding governmental authority as a top priority.

Authors, politicians, and diplomats alike have always held a particular interest in how power might be wielded. Power has always been a source of drama and biography in all its guises—its subtle persuasion, its successes, and its inevitable downfall. Diplomats and state leaders were likelier to read and implement Machiavelli's writings on power than those of Aristotle. We are more inclined to consult Metternich and Talleyrand (and, of course, Kissinger) than political scientists when trying to make sense of the inner workings of power.

International Law and Order

The goal here is to establish that the core ideas of the Rule of Law also apply globally, with governments rather than individuals serving as the subjects of international law. Universal law governs the actions of governments on a global scale, just as domestic law governs the actions of individuals on a national scale. Identicalities can be compared between domestic and international law's respective responsibilities. Like domestic law, international law serves to settle disagreements among international actors and to deter and punish illegal behaviour.

The behaviour and interactions between nations are generally governed by international law, which applies to the entire state community. Rights can be granted to individuals and organisations between countries and within countries. As we learned in Unit 5, signatory states to global treaties are responsible for promoting and protecting human rights within their borders. That is how people are affected by international law. However, international law & national law differ significantly in enforcement. There is no global police force, making it much more difficult to enforce international law than domestic law. This is why national law typically imposes a legal framework on people while international law relies on consensus.

The United Nations system is a focal point for discussing and formalising treaties (agreements between governments) on many subjects addressed by international law. In the wake of World War II, the United Nations, a global organisation, was established in 1945. It has grown to include 193 countries or nearly all of them. Its goals include fostering peaceful relations between nations, improving people's level of living, and protecting their human rights.

Rights to freedom, equality, and justice under universal law How can ideas like equality, fairness, liberty, and justice that we have covered in earlier classes figure into the framework of the international legal system? However, the reality of international dispute settlement methods is more complicated than national systems. Some have argued that the politicisation of the Universal system leaves it vulnerable to the abuses and inequities we have already addressed. As a result, it fails to deliver justice.

Below, we will talk about equality, fairness, liberty, and justice in the framework of the international system of justice, with a focus on mediating conflicts between nations.

  • Equality, under a national judicial system, all citizens should be treated equally before the law and receive the same protections and privileges under the law. For global equality to be achieved, all nations must be treated equally under the law and enjoy the same protections.

  • Fairness is a part of the ideals of legal equality and sovereign equality. An equitable universal order necessitates that all nations be afforded the same chances to defend their independence and participate in global affairs. In principle, the situation is fair if all countries benefited equally from universal law and were afforded equal protection under universal law.

  • Sovereignty encompasses the idea of freedom. When we say that a nation is sovereign, we mean that it has the authority to rule its citizens following its values and principles. Countries can legislate to regulate the actions of their citizens and create the infrastructure, like taxation, that is required to keep the country functioning smoothly. Countries have the same freedom as people to engage in activities that are not prohibited by universal law. Some countries are much less powerful and much more dependent (economically and otherwise), making them more likely to be pressured by other global community members, raising questions about whether all countries genuinely have the same freedom to behave as they desire.

International Law and Peace

Based on above discussion, it can be said that international law plays a crucial role in promoting peace and harmony in the world by providing a framework for resolving disputes peacefully and by setting standards for the treatment of individuals and nations. For example, the United Nations Charter sets out the principles of peaceful relations between different states. Further, the Geneva Conventions establish standards for the treatment of civilians and prisoners of war in armed conflicts. International human rights law and international humanitarian law also help to protect individuals’ right and limit the devastating effects of war.

However, despite the role that international law plays in promoting international peace, its effectiveness in preventing and resolving conflicts and disputes remains limited because often it is dependent on the willingness of respective states to comply with its provisions.


The international community has established a set of norms and concepts, known as a universal law, that all its members must abide by while interacting with one another. Primarily, universal law seeks to preserve global stability, encourage mutual aid and understanding, and advance social equity and protection for all people.

Because of the uneven playing field created by international law, it can be difficult for smaller or weaker governments to have their voices heard or to have their interests fairly represented by larger or more powerful ones. Despite these obstacles, the ideas of universal treaties continue to be a powerful instrument for fostering justice and stability on a global scale. In the end, all nations must work together to uphold the rules and principles of universal law to be effective.

Updated on: 15-Feb-2023


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