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Should international law reflect the values of international community?

When international law reflects the values of the international community in a wide sense, it can potentially have a trans-formative effect for international relations and contribute to revising situations of hegemony and domination. If interpreted in a narrow and formal way, the notion of the international community encompasses the specific diplomatic circles, international organizations and international legal institutions in which the elite of practitioners of international law acts and produces international legal norms. Broadening this important notion in order to incorporate the wider community of scholars, public and popular debates about global justice and the denunciation of conditions of inequality, privilege and injustice, appears to be a pending task for the reconfiguration of the mechanisms that govern the production of international justice in world politics.

In the context of recent renovated explorations about the historical connections between imperialism and international law, historians and theorists in the field have become more aware of the limits of international law to transform the structures of international politics and the importance of historicizing and politicizing international law. At the same time, the inclusion of different legal traditions into the values of the international community, including, for instance, the rights of indigenous communities, is a crucial condition for the historical transformation of the international system and the public legitimization of robust principles and practices of international justice. When the inclusive construction of legal pluralism is combined with the practical legitimization of the principles of sovereign equality and multilateral-ism, a skeptical and critical historical sensibility towards international justice could emerge, so the construction of global justice begins to be conceived as not simply a normative ideal, but a subject of historical investigation and a terrain for identifying, denouncing and repairing the wrong by producing empirical critique hand by hand with concrete and practical legal innovation.

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“UN Building” by jensjunge. CC0Public domain via Pixabay.

Although global justice is at the core of current academic and practical debates in the fields of international law and international relations, jurists and international relations specialists do not tend to speak to each other. Yet there are a number of overlapping concerns and preoccupations that could be addressed more insightfully if international power politics and global justice are explored as mutually inter-connected fields. Therefore, international lawyers and scholars in the fields of international law and international relations should not be regarded as formal players involved in the production and deliberation that takes place in the routines, corridors, courses and discussions involving international organizations and international legal institutions.

Instead, they could potentially perform a reflexive and transformative role by contributing to connect world politics with legal debates, formal procedures with public deliberations, professors with students, elitist institutions with popular concerns, and academia with the world of practitioners. As such, they should play a central role creating and shaping debates in the public sphere beyond the elitist community of international lawyers and diplomacy, in order to strengthen the values of legal pluralism, unravel situations of hegemony, and make of global justice, in the context of a hierarchical international system, a subject of public deliberation, popular interest and critical importance for world politics.

Featured image credit: “Flags Blow Colorful” by Hans. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

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