Principles of Public International Law

Topics: Law, International relations, Sovereignty Pages: 11 (3496 words) Published: October 15, 2008
Principles of Public International Law: Coursework Assignment

Question: “Law will never really play an effective part in international relations until it can annex to its own sphere some of the matters which at present lie within the domestic jurisdiction of the several states.” Discuss

‘The principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognised’.

The aforementioned is a definition of law as defined by the American Heritage dictionary of the English Language.

If we apply this definition of community in its strictest sense it becomes increasingly difficult to subscribe to the view that there is an international community at large. If we begin to analyse statistics that show that there are over 7000 languages in the world, approximately 10,000 distinctly different religions, and a disputably infinite number of ethnic groups across just the 195 countries that comprise our global society, then it becomes patently clear that we would be better off highlighting our divisiveness rather than our prospects as a global community.

Our collective history as human beings, however, tells a different story about our common interest and the way in which we have formally raised and torn down barriers to promote the same. We have, on the other hand, been separated on the basis of differing ideologies and the exercise of exclusive nationalism. Since the latter is a sentiment which resides in particular nations which have at their core a set legal framework validating their very existence and their interaction with other nations, it is essential to any study of law’s application to international relations. How does a sovereign nation reconcile its very sovereignty with its growing need to be integrated into a shrinking global society with its concomitant shrinking global economy? It is clear that some compromises must be made. Before we consider any specific cases in which states have decided to relinquish some of their sovereign power, we must consider the implications of the term sovereignty itself, the elements of sovereignty and its importance to a nation-state.

Much has been written on the topic of sovereignty. Definitions vary slightly from one text to the other but they all have at their core, when specifically referring to the idea of state sovereignty, the idea of legitimate authority. In Sohail H. Hashmi’s discourse on sovereignty in the book ‘State Sovereignty, Change and Resistance in International Relations’, he asserts, referring to the concept of legitimate authority, that it is “ a broad concept – not a definition but a wide category – that unites most of sovereignty’s tradition.” He further notes that authority can be defined as “The right to command and correlatively, the right to be obeyed” and is only legitimate “when it is seen as right by those living under it.”

It is to be noted that legitimate authority is not simply the idea of more power. R.P. Wolf, the twentieth century political philosopher and individual anarchist, illustrates the difference more sharply in a classical example in which he argues “if I am forced at gunpoint to hand over my money, I am subject to power; if I pay my taxes even though I think I can cheat I am recognizing legitimate authority.”

We must recognize, however, that though legitimate authority is the overarching principle on any discourse on state sovereignty, there are specific elements of state sovereignty that are crucial, which every sovereign state holds dear to it and attempts to retain regardless of seemingly necessary or stipulated concessions of power, influence or authority to the international community.

They include International Legal Validation (of a sovereign state), Interdependence Sovereignty and Domestic Sovereignty. International Legal...

Bibliography: Brownlie, Ian , Principles of Public International Law, Fifth Edition, New York: Oxford University Press 1998
Hashmi, Sohail.H, State Sovereignty- Change and Persistence in Industrial Relations, Pensylvania: Pensylvania State University Press 1997
Krasner, Stephen, D, Sovereignty- Organized Hypocrisy, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1999
Moore, Margaret, National Self-Determination and Secession, New York: Oxford University Press 1998
Harris , D.J, Cases and Materials on International Law , Sixth Edition, London:
Sweet and Maxwell 2004
Buergenthalm, Thomas and Murphy, Sean D, Public International Law in a Nut Shell, : Thompson/West 2002
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