On Solidarity in International Law
Caritas in Veritate Foundation, 2014
20 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2017
Date Written: July 11, 2014
The scope of this reflection is on the actual and possible function of the concept of solidarity in international law. The discussion has both a descriptive aim, to examine the place of solidarity within international law today, and a normative aim that looks at the desirable evolution of this concept. Although increasingly invoked in the international sphere generally, the concept of solidarity has an uncertain status in international law. Despite having a longer history especially in Christian thought and certain earlier juridical and political antecedents (some quite contradictory to its use today), its advent in international law is relatively new. Solidarity today could be understood in the abstract as a basic observable condition of the international environment, as a principle of international law, as a (human) right, or as a fundamental moral value. Seen from within the practical experience of international law today, it is best understood as a relatively weak legal principle, which rarely if ever outweighs the international legal system’s continuing foundation in the principles of sovereignty and state consent. Solidarity does, however, have stronger underpinnings as a moral value. The place of solidarity in Catholic social teaching deepens our understanding of the possible significance of subsidiarity in the international legal system. In Catholic thought, subsidiarity is both a virtue and a moral principle that calls all men and women to commit themselves “to the good of all and of each individual.” It is closely related to charity and fraternity, and finds its fullest expression in gratuitousness, or freedom. This in turn leads to a need to reconcile solidarity with the freedom of states in the international sphere, including through the mediating principle of subsidiarity.
Keywords: International Law, Solidarity, Subsidiarity, Catholic Social Thought
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