An International Rule of Law?

40 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2008 Last revised: 1 May 2014

See all articles by Simon Chesterman

Simon Chesterman

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law


The rule of law is almost universally supported at the national and international level. The extraordinary support for the rule of law in theory, however, is possible only because of widely divergent views of what it means in practice. Disparate national traditions posed few problems while operating in parallel, but efforts to promote the rule of law through international organizations have necessitated a reassessment of this pluralism. This article proposes a core definition of the rule of law as a political ideal and argues that its applicability to the international level will depend on that ideal being seen as a means rather than an end, as serving a function rather than defining a status. Such a vision of the rule of law more accurately reflects the development of the rule of law in national jurisdictions and appropriately highlights the political work that must be done if power is to be channeled through law.

Keywords: rule of law, international law, international organizations, United Nations, Security Council

Suggested Citation

Chesterman, Simon, An International Rule of Law?. American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 56, pp. 331-361, 2008, NYU Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 08-11, Available at SSRN:

Simon Chesterman (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

469G Bukit Timah Road
Eu Tong Sen Building
Singapore, 259776


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