A new international law of security and protection.

Author:Ramcharan, Bertrand


Radical changes are taking place in the world and international law must change with them. Sovereign states still predominate and power remains the decisive element in the prevailing international order. International organizations still have to operate within their mandates and are under the sway of powerful states or voting majorities. And yet, there is room for structural change in the content and procedures of international law of the future, which must become an international law of security and protection with the United Nations indispensably in the forefront.


In the third edition of The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, edited by Bruno Simma and others, the authors refer to the report of the former Secretary-General Kofi Annan "In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All", noting that "the threats to peace and security in the twenty-first century include not just international war and conflict, but civil violence, organized crime, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. They also include poverty, deadly infectious disease, and environmental degradation since these can have equally catastrophic consequences. All of these threats can cause death or lessen life chances on a large scale. All of them can undermine States as the basic unit of the international system". (1)

The term "international security", in turn, they continue, requires "a transformation of international relations so that every State is assured that peace will not be broken, or at least that any breach of the peace will be limited in its impact. International security implies the right of every State to take advantage of any relevant security system, while also implying the legal obligations of every State to support such systems".

The General Assembly, the authors further noted, "has stated that national and international security has become increasingly interrelated, which accordingly makes it necessary for States to approach international security in a comprehensive and cooperative manner". (2)

The authors commented:

"Traditionally, the concept of international security was perceived as primarily a problem of State security. Within recent years, however, an additional concept has emerged-that of human security, acknowledging that threats cannot only come from States and non-State actors, but can also exist to the security of both States and the people." (3) They proceeded to point out that "International security can be promoted and achieved through various policies or measures, two of which are referred to in para 1 [of Article 1 of the Charter], namely measures of collective security and adjustment or settlement of international disputes.... [international peace and security may be endangered not only by acts of aggression, but also by any other threat to the peace." (4)

What do the changing threats to international security signify for the future of international law and order? Nick Butler of the Policy Institute at King's College London explored these issues in "Action on Climate Change Is Self-defence Not Altruism", published in the Financial...

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