International Law under Pressure
Continued relevance in times of hardship
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs
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present international political environment is marked by multiple crises, which
all have a bearing upon how international law is perceived. Whether one refers
to the conflict in Ukraine or to the refugee crisis confronting Europe, there
is a widespread sentiment that such events embody a crisis of international law
more broadly. This is not just because states have violated their international
commitments or been unable to live up to them. A deeper discontent with the
international legal system seems to be increasingly prevalent among Western
states as well, making international law more of an inconvenience for states than
a tool for cooperation.
analysis studies challenging developments vis-à-vis the international legal
order and the merits of criticism directed against it by national policymakers.
Two main criticisms that have been levelled against international law will be
looked into: 1) the law’s inability to take account of national interests; and
2) the law’s inability to reflect new realities. The exploration of these
claims and international law’s capability to respond to these concerns will inform
the final discussion on whether international law is in a real crisis or not.
The analysis will conclude with the finding that the main problems are to be
found outside of international law itself; holders of political power should
not treat international law as a nuisance, but should manifest their continued
commitment to it by operating within the realm of the law and by making use of
the tools provided by it in order to deal with contemporary concerns. If states
choose to act outside of the law, it will not only undermine international
law’s authority, it will also increase uncertainty in international relations.