5.3.6 International Law: Global

It is tempting to leap to the conclusion that international law can never be a useful concept, because it doesn’t appear to have prevented repeated violence.  One might think that enforceable international law would require some form of world government, and that this would be highly undesirable in practice: a perceived loss of sovereignty, as some people argued within the EU (

The situation is better than the above bleak summary would suggest:

  • Countries can voluntarily sign treaties that bind them to avoid behaviour that threatens world peace.
  • The Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy entry on Hugo Grotius, who was regarded as the father of international law, recorded that his book De Jure Belli ac Pacis [The Law of War and Peace] was published in 1625. It has worked for long periods in practice.
  • The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was successful for a long time; an article, A Westphalian Peace for the Middle East, described it and its possible relevance in today’s world.
  • The United Nations has also had some successes.

The current system of international law is described in more detail below:

  • The role of the UN Security Council (
  • International Courts of Law (
  • The Geneva conventions (
  • The weaknesses of international law (
  • UN-sanctioned use of force and the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (



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