International Law

Those aspects of the progressive agenda that transcend national boundaries can only be convincingly and sustainably pursued through multinational agreement and, preferably, by enshrining these agreements in international law.  Below is an indicative list of items that best lend themselves to this approach:

  • Removing trade barriers.
  • Preventing military encroachment on to the sovereign territory of other nations, except when necessary to enforce other aspects of international law and sanctioned by the appropriate body.
  • Clarity on national boundaries.
  • Preventing military-type action against groups of unarmed civilians, including the use of weaponry that has particular impact on civilians.
  • Preventing deliberate, serious, state-sanctioned (whether actively or passively) and widespread persecution of civilian groups on the grounds of ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation.
  • Action to limit climate change.
  • Appropriate sharing of transnational natural resources through international arbitration.
  • Definition and treatment of refugees.
  • Preventing the use of torture.
  • Action against international criminal activity.
  • Removing tax havens.

Action by individual countries is likely to be ineffective in regard to many of the above, and may lead to the nation undertaking the action suffering in economic or other ways without making any appreciable difference (particularly if other countries respond by furthering their own economic or political interests in a manner that negates the action taken).  An obvious example is the use of economic sanctions; these will be ineffective, and will cause losses to the country applying them, unless a large part of the international community participates.

The emphasis should therefore always be on building an international coalition for action rather than undertaking piecemeal, isolated measures that will be little more than self-harming gestures.  This does not mean, of course, that we cannot take a leading role in forming such coalitions, including leading by example.  We should also be scrupulous in following international law ourselves where this does exist; so as to avoid giving any excuses to other countries to ignore those aspects of international law they find inconvenient to their own purposes.

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