Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs
Sovereignty, Order and Conflict Series presents
Corri Zoli, Ph. D, Associate Teaching Professor, Institute for Security Policy & Law, Syracuse University
The Return of Sovereignty in International Law
Euroscepticism, anti-immigration sentiments, fortified borders, trade barriers, de-globalization, faltering international alliances: today, state sovereignty is resurgent and defensive postures toward national political autonomy are everywhere. They reveal an intense debate over the meaning, scope, and consequences of sovereignty in relation to international law. Whereas some scholars worry that a return to sovereignty presages the end of the post-World War II liberal order, my new approach posits that sovereignty is in fact the basis for international law—not its antagonist. After all, the UN Charter’s sovereign equality and noninterference clauses help define the international system. Thus, the return of sovereignty can be seen as an adaptive response by states seeking both to rely on international law and to invoke bedrock principles of sovereignty in order to manage integrationist pressures, such as global trade, transnational threats, and intrusive international organizations. An appeal to sovereign preferences is permissible under international law so long as it does not evade ratified agreements. This distinction is often lost in scholarship that characterizes resurgent sovereignty as “backsliding” or state intransigence.
Sponsored by Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs and Sovereignty, Order and Conflict (SOC)
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This event was first published on January 14, 2020 and last updated on January 24, 2020.