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Sovereigns as Trustees of Humanity: On the Accountability of States to Foreign Stakeholders

Forthcoming in 107 American Journal of International Law (2013)

46 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2011 Last revised: 21 Aug 2015

Eyal Benvenisti

University of Cambridge Faculty of Law

Date Written: November 27, 2012

Abstract

The concept of sovereignty crystallized at a time when distances were large and self-sufficiency was the aspiration. Sovereignty coincided with notions of democracy, under the assumption of a perfect fit between the scope of sovereign authority and the affected stakeholders. This traditional view of sovereignty yields inefficient, inequitable and undemocratic consequences. This Article argues that in a densely populated and deeply integrated world, sovereignty should be conceptualized as a trusteeship not only toward a state’s own citizens, but also toward humanity at large. Accordingly, sovereigns should be required to take into account other-regarding considerations when forming national policies that may have effects beyond their national jurisdiction, even absent specific treaty obligations. After grounding the trustee sovereignty concept on three distinct bases – the right to democratic participation, human rights, and the sovereign’s power of exclusion – the Article identifies the minimal normative and procedural other-regarding obligations that arise from this concept and suggests that they are already embedded in several doctrines of international law that delimit the rights of sovereigns. The trustee sovereignty concept can explain the evolution of these doctrines and inspire the advent of new specific obligations.

Keywords: international law, sovereignty, global governance

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Benvenisti, Eyal, Sovereigns as Trustees of Humanity: On the Accountability of States to Foreign Stakeholders (November 27, 2012). Forthcoming in 107 American Journal of International Law (2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1863228 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1863228

Eyal Benvenisti (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge Faculty of Law ( email )

Lauterpacht Centre for International Law
5 Cranmer Centre
Cambridge, CB3 9BL
United Kingdom

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