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The Politics of Legality and UN Resolution 2334

Benyamin Netanyahu

Courtesy of thierry ehrmann/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on 18 January 2017.

Synopsis

UN Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements was passed by the Security Council only because the US did not exercise its usual veto. As expected, the resolution was strongly opposed by Israel, which threatened to cut its funding to the United Nations. As we face an uncertain global order, it is crucial that countries work within the international system.

Commentary

UNITED NATIONS Resolution 2334, and the abstention vote by the United States, was a significant exercise in international diplomacy and its relationship with international law. The resolution condemned Israel’s illegal but expanding settlement project and demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the ‘occupied’ Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” The resolution was adopted with 14 votes in favour with only the US abstaining.

The passing of the resolution, made possible because of the US’ holding back its usual veto demonstrated that the decision to do the right thing through the international system is not necessarily based on the legality of the issue. While international law is clear on the illegality of settlements, this resolution was only adopted because key actors, such as the US, decided it was time to do the right thing. This allowed the Security Council to produce a fair outcome.

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What´s So Important About Territorial Disputes in International Relations?

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Courtesy US Army / Flickr

This article was originally published by the Political Violence at a Glance on 21 September 2016.

Recent events demonstrate how difficult territorial disputes are to manage. In July a United Nations tribunal ruled that China’s sovereignty claims over the South China Sea, and its aggressive attempts to enforce them, violate international law. China’s response has been to ignore the Tribunal’s decision and continue its militarization of the Spratly Islands. Neighbors, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines, all challenge Chinese authority and reject its nine-dash line, but all also seem fearful of provoking an incident with Chinese forces. The US, while officially neutral when it comes to disputes over ownership of the South China Sea, could be drawn into any conflict that erupts. Not only does the US have an interest in protecting sea lanes that are vital to global commerce, but also its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines commits the US to assist Manila if a confrontation with China arises. 

Territorial disputes, it turns out, are incredibly difficult to manage. Take the case of Kashmir, which appears to be heating up again as well. The killing of Burhan Wani, a leader in the Kashmir insurgency, on July 9, 2016, by Indian security forces has aggravated feelings of mistrust and apprehension. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, termed the killing “India’s barbarism” and declared the observance of a “black day” in Pakistan on July 19 in protest. India reacted by condemning Pakistan’s meddling in India’s internal affairs. Kashmir has been in dispute for nearly 70 years and the territorial disagreement seems unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Indeed, India and Pakistan each continue to view the land as inviolable and thus not subject to negotiation. China’s control of approximately 20% of Kashmir further complicates settlement as well.

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The International Food Security Treaty (IFST): Problems and Prospects

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Courtesy Peter Roan/Flickr

This article was originally published as “On the Origin of a Hunger-Free Species By Means of Enforceable Natural Law” by the Harvard International Review (HIR) on 11 August 2016.

Had Charles Darwin been blessed with precognition while conjecturing about finch beak differentiation over millions of years, he would have envied us. We in the early twenty-first century — within a single lifetime — can observe homo sapiens evolving a transformative new trait with unprecedented strength through the international justice system.

Contrary to common perceptions of his work “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,” Darwin’s view of evolution was not confined to physiology alone. In his later book, “The Descent of Man,” he entertained a broader view that included the ways in which more fortunate humans treat the less fortunate, contending, “The aid we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts…”

It’s a safe bet, therefore, that Darwin would have taken great interest in the emergence of the International Food Security Treaty (IFST), an initiative of international law that could equip humanity to eradicate hunger, the world’s most widespread and severe form of suffering.

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The Impact of Brexit on the EU’s International Agreements

 EU flat with one star missing

Courtesy freestocks.org/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on 15 July 2016.

The prospect of Brexit has kicked up a lot of dust around the now famous Article 50 TEU withdrawal procedure, and the form, scope and sequence of the ‘divorce’ and future framework agreements between the EU and the UK.[1] One issue that has received far less attention is whether the international agreements concluded by the EU will continue to apply to the UK after Brexit, and if so, how.

The EU has concluded 1,139 bilateral and multilateral agreements with third parties, ranging from trade, development and sectoral economic issues like aviation, energy and fisheries, to matters related to visa, human rights, and the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).[2] For those accords that fall squarely within the realm of the EU’s exclusive competences (e.g. classic free trade agreements) there is in principle no discussion: thanks to its single international legal personality, the EU and the third parties are the sole signatories to the agreements and will remain bound by them. A simple notification by the EU to the third parties might thus suffice to inform them that the EU no longer consists of 28 but 27 member states.

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10 Things You Should Know About the Recent South China Sea Ruling

Storm clouds

Courtesy Peter Baer/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) on 18 July 2016

The recent arbitration tribunal’s ruling on the Philippines’ case against China represents a milestone both in international law and in the politics of the South China Sea. In a sweeping, magisterial, and unequivocal decision, the tribunal has moved the goalposts, changed the channel, and put China on the defensive. From this point forward the main question will not be who owns what in the South China Sea, but who does or does not respect international law. China has rejected the decision in the strongest possible terms, with evident (and no doubt heartfelt) emotion. Whether China sticks to that script or ultimately decides that the costs of noncompliance outweigh the benefits is, of course, the $64,000 question. We will have to wait and see. Meanwhile, though, here are key some things about the decision that you may not have noticed:

When it comes to maritime rights, UNCLOS trumps all. The tribunal has made clear that other state-to-state agreements or principles of customary international law can confer maritime rights, but only if they are consistent with UNCLOS principles.Put another way: if you want to be seen to be playing by the rules, you have to be seen to be playing by UNCLOS rules.

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