International Law Explained
Kal Raustiala writes and teaches in the areas of international law and international relations. He holds a joint appointment between the UCLA Law School and the UCLA International Institute, where he teaches in the Program on Global Studies. He is also director of the UCLA Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations (click here to read about this appointment). The Burkle Center is UCLA's primary academic unit that fosters interdisciplinary research and policy-oriented teaching on the role of the United States in global cooperation and conflict, and military, political, social and economic affairs.
Professor Raustiala's research focuses on international cooperation and conflict in areas such as environment, trade, armed conflict, dispute resolution, and intellectual property. Recent publications include "The Global Struggle Over Geographic Indications," European Journal of International Law (2007), "The Piracy Paradox: Innovation and Intellectual Property in Fashion Design" (with Chris Sprigman), Virginia Law Review (2006) and "Form and Substance in International Agreements", American Journal of International Law (2005), which won the 2005 Francis Deak Prize from the American Society of International Law. His current book about the extraterritorial reach of American law, Does the Constitution Follow the Flag?, will be published by Oxford University Press in May 2009.
Professor Raustiala has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School, Princeton University, and the University of Chicago Law School. Prior to coming to UCLA he was a research fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at The Brookings Institution, a Peccei Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems, and an assistant professor of politics at Brandeis University. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and editorial board of International Organization, he is a frequent media contributor whose writing has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the New Republic, the New Yorker, the International Herald Tribune and Le Monde.
I think international law is one of these things that’s a little bit like the air where it’s everywhere. We don’t really notice it so when you get on a plane and you fly to Europe the ability to get on that plane, cross over the air space of other countries, sometimes you see the little map when you’re in the plane that shows you’re crossing over Greenland or whatever, all of that is governed by international law in different ways. Different treaties are in place to take care of all the questions that might arise about aviation. So that’s a really mundane example and then at the other extreme we’ve got much more contentious examples like-- Let’s take the war in Iraq. So as most of us remember in the run up to the war the Bush administration went to the security council at the United Nations and tried to get a second resolution, and they’re doing that because there is a legal framework in place that governs the ability of countries to enter in to armed conflict. So between those two bookends a zillion other examples but I think the thing to recognize about international law is in a globalized world, in an integrated world, you are constantly dealing with things that are crossing borders or you’re crossing borders and international law is usually playing some role in shaping that.
Question: What dictates international law?
the most common thing are treaties and most of us are familiar with-- I mentioned aviation. There are treaties governing that. The UN itself was created by a treaty. So treaties are kind of the backbone a little bit like we think of statutes in the domestic context, but we do have something like common law. We call it customary law so a good example would be the law of the sea. There’s all kinds of rules about ships and their ability to go on the high seas and who can board and where they can cross. Most of that is governed by custom and the idea is this custom kind of a cruise over time like the common law becomes entrenched and accepted as law, and then there is also courts. Right. So we have-- The International Court of Justice sits in The Hague and we’ve got a series of other courts. Right. The World Trade Organization has a court and so forth. So there is a set of judicial institutions much like in our domestic system so in a lot of ways it’s a very similar system. There isn’t I suppose a constitutional equivalent. There isn’t a kind of grand governing thing but there are literally tens of thousands of treaties so a surprising amount of topics are covered.
Question: Who are the governing bodies?
There are a whole set of international organizations so from the United Nations being the most broad, the most elaborated, probably the most famous. The World Trade Organization is a little more specialized and then you’ve got dozens and dozens and dozens, thousands probably, of these subsidiary international organizations, international maritime organization dealing with law of the sea questions and so on down the line. And these have been created over the years. Some of them date back to the nineteenth century but for the most part that’s a kind of twentieth-century phenomenon so one of the things we see in the last century or so has been one, the rise of these international organizations, the UN being the paramount example, and two, the use of treaties. Treaties existed in the past but when we talked about custom and common law that was much more common. Now we tend to codify that in to treaty. So those two things are sort of two major trends of the last century.
Question: How will globalization affect international law?
in the sense that you can have a treaty for example in which every country is a member of that treaty and so would be governed by that, and in fact we have lots of treaties that are pretty close to what you’ve got in virtually every single country. The Convention on the Rights of the Child I think is a good example where only the United States and Somalia when I last checked were not parties to that treaty. The United Nations Charter comes pretty close. Right. So virtually every country-- Switzerland for a long time was a holdout. Virtually every country is part of the UN system and so governed by the rules of the UN Charter so there is no barrier to that and we do see it.
The depth and breadth of international law.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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