What’s Running the World: Global Values, International Law, and the United Nations
Utrecht University School of Law
January 1, 2010
Interdisciplinary Journal of Human Rights Law, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2009-2010
The language of values is in fashion nowadays. Global values are often employed, either as elements of a coherent theory or simply as rhetorical tools, by some of the most influential politicians of our age. However, despite all this attention to global values, the concept itself remains somewhat obscure. The various lists of values, proposed by individual politicians, scholars, NGO’s, and international organizations, differ to some extent, both in content and in character, and a clear definition of what constitutes a global value is lacking. This article aims to explore the concept of global values. It focuses on the relationship between such values and international law. The main assumption of this article is that international law has moved from an essentially value-free order of sovereign and independent States, to a more cosmopolitan order, based on universal values and common interests. Taking that assumption as its starting point, this article basically aims to explore how and to what extent the language of global values has encroached on the traditional, consent-based foundation of the international legal order. Before turning to this central theme, i.e. the relationship between global values and international law, this article first aims to shed some light on the concept of global values itself. Then, the central theme will be dealt with. First, jus cogens and erga omnes will be discussed as legal techniques that might be used to give special legal protection to fundamental, value-based norms of general international law. After that, we will look at the role of the United Nations in ‘translating’ the language of global values into that of international law. We will end with a brief conclusion and look into the future.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 9, 2010
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