Download This Paper Open PDF in Browser

International Law and Its Others

6 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2018  

Simon Chesterman

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: February 12, 2018


If the rule of law means anything, it is that the law is meant to apply equally to all regardless of the vacillations of power. This is the founding myth of law at the national level — famously forbidding the rich as well as the poor from sleeping under the bridges of Paris at night. More recently embraced at the international level, the myth was formalized in the United Nations Charter, article 2(1) of which founds the Organization on the principle of sovereign equality. It is a useful myth, and a popular one — in 2005, every Member State reaffirmed their commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN, and to an international order based on the rule of law.

Yet a myth it remains. The history of the rule of law at the domestic and international level is a tale of ongoing struggle to ensure that the powerful as well as the weak are subject to it. That struggle is all the more difficult at the international level, as the absence of a hierarchical structure means that in place of the leviathan’s stick there are only the carrots of enlightened self-interest.

Suggested Citation

Chesterman, Simon, International Law and Its Others (February 12, 2018). 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


Paper statistics

Abstract Views