Sovereignty: The State, the Individual, and the International Legal System in the Twenty First Century
17 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2008
Date Written: August 9, 2008
This essay proposes that an understanding of original concepts of sovereignty both helps explain twentieth century developments in international law and provides a proper context for coming changes in the ways in which persons relate to states, states relate to states within the international legal system, and ultimately and most importantly-the way international law affects and applies to persons. The most important developments in international law in the new century are likely not to be in state-state relationships but rather in the status and rights of the person in international law. The twentieth century process of globalization brought us back to the importance of the individual in determining both what sovereignty is and its proper exercise by those acting on behalf of states.
This essay reviews the original meaning of the term "sovereignty," and provides examples of twentieth century developments in the application of international law to individuals and the application of municipal law to states. These examples demonstrate that international law has moved beyond contemporary notions of sovereignty, that concerns about "giving up sovereignty" through participation in multilateral organizations often are misplaced, and that the ultimate propriety of new international norms will in many cases be determined by the manner in which they deal with relationships between individuals and the state-which is the relationship addressed by the original concept of sovereignty.
Keywords: sovereignty, international law, municipal law, individual rights, globalization, self-government
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