Mandatory Multilateralism – an Overview

With skepticism about international norms and institutions on the rise around the world, many commentators have argued that multilateralism faces an uncertain future. Major fractures have appeared in international legal order, including Britain’s messy divorce from the European Union and the United States’ controversial decisions to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership, withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement and the U.N. Human Rights Council, and undermine the World Trade Organization (WTO) by sidestepping its dispute-resolution mechanism and blocking appointments to its Appellate Body. While the path forward remains unclear, for now many states are reassessing the strategic value of multilateral cooperation and are recalibrating their international commitments across a wide variety of contexts. Continue reading

The Neglected Potentials of Vagueness and Ambiguity in International Law

Striving for clarity is one of the central tasks of a lawyer, at least so common wisdom tells. Whether lawyers interpret a statute, try to discern the ratio decidenci of a court judgment or seek to identify a norm of international custom, they look for a clear-cut, ideally brief and easily comprehensible underlying rule or principle, ratio or general logic that will present the solution to the legal question at hand. Continue reading

History as a Legal Argument – The Naulilaa Case (1928)

Book Cover Zollmann "Naulila 1914" The question about the historical relation between international law and colonialism (and its legacy) has grown in relevance over the last twenty-odd years. Critical scholars speak of international law’s “complete complicity with the colonial project” – meaning the exploitation and domination of the global south. They point to the ‘dark side’ of the promises of ‘order’, ‘equality’, and ‘(world) peace’ inherent in the enlightened idea of the ius gentium europaeum.

It is important to point out that nineteenth-century contemporaries were already well aware of the relation between international law and colonialism but they did not look at it from a moral perspective. Continue reading

How is Inter-Institutional Order Possible in Global Governance?

Book Cover Faude "Von Konkurrenz zu Arbeitsteilung"Global governance consists of a multitude of international institutions. Although these institutions regulate only individual areas of transnational governance like trade, security, climate change, and financial assistance, they do not operate in isolation from each other, but overlap in their competences. With regard to international financial assistance, for example, the competences of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and regional development banks overlap. In the realm of international security, NATO overlaps with the Common Security and Defense Policy of the European Union. The trade-environment-nexus features overlap between the WTO and several environmental institutions, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Ozone Protection Regime, and the Biodiversity Regime. Continue reading

Reclaiming Human Rights from Globalisation

Whatever the true historical origins and philosophical foundations of human rights, their protection has taken a distinctive form in the modern state legal order and, by extension, the state-centred conception of international law. From the American and French Declarations of the ‘Rights of Man’ to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the main purpose of human rights was to organize and legitimize the social compact between the state and its citizens. Continue reading