The Myth of the Cold War: Is 1991 Really a Turning Point for the Neutrality of International Law Regarding Democratic Governance?
25 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2017
Date Written: September 29, 2017
This paper submits that the end of the Cold War does not constitute a pivotal moment regarding international law’s neutrality towards governmental change. It challenges the historical narrative whereby the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union created a sea change in the neutrality of international law concerning forms of government. Proponents of a right to democratic governance have long argued that following the Cold War, international law is no longer agnostic in regard to the way in which a government comes into being. Against this backdrop, the paper sheds light on the limits of the mainstream Cold War narrative of democratic governance theory as advanced by Franck and Fox. It suggests that there has always been continuity in State practice that was not disrupted by 1991 and, therefore, the Cold War and post-Cold War dichotomy relies on a false ground. First, the paper questions the reasons for the common use of this simplistic dichotomy. Then, it explores pre-1991 practice and examines cases where unconstitutional changes of government have been subject to debate. Finally, it analyses post-Cold War practices and focuses on military coups. Since a blind condemnation of military coups seems to be a remote possibility due to the diversity of States’ political interests in the present-day context, this paper argues that trying to anchor the emergence of democratic governance in international law to the end of the Cold War is a pragmatic and artificial construction to explain the notion of neutrality in international law.
Keywords: International law; democratic governance; legitimacy; neutrality of international law; Cold War; military coups; international organisations.
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