Read On! Promoting Peace Through International Law (Oxford 2015)

Edited by Cecilia M. Bailliet & Kjetil Mujezinović Larsen

            Inspired by the Grotian tradition in international law of the “idea of peace”, the book aims to explain how peace may be achieved utilizing the existing international and national normative and institutional frameworks. Indeed, as Hersch Lauterpacht noted “international law should be functionally oriented towards both the establishment of peace between nations and the protection of human rights”. The majority of general books on international law devote little attention to the role of law in creating peace. Further, law schools have appeared to pursue a narrative of violence as they place significant emphasis on the development of courses addressing the use of force, humanitarian law, and counter-terrorism.

The book seeks to promote a new consciousness among international law academics, practitioners, and students. The book is structured to explain the relevance of particular legal regimes to the pursuit of peace. A key dilemma is that International Law does not have a unified concept of peace. This book is open to exploration of the different views.

The UN Charter presents a framework for realistic pacifism, as it prohibits the unlawful use of force and promotes the use of dispute settlement mechanisms to avoid breaches of the peace, but also contains exceptions on self-defence and protection of others. Further, according to Article 4(1), membership in the UN “is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.” Negative peace is limited to the absence of violence or prohibition of use of force. Positive peace addresses Galtung’s advocacy of respect for human rights, provision of social justice, and elimination of structural violence causing poverty and exclusion. Chapters pursue theoretical, normative, and empirical perspectives delineating the key dilemmas in the pursuit of peace through the lens of each particular framework. Issues include:

What tensions arise between the pursuit of a global rule of law and the Kantian “democratic peace” (both at international and national levels)?

 To what extent do the international community, states, and non-state actors have particular obligations in relation to peace?

What is the role of IOs in relation to peace? Is there is a need to reform international, regional, and national institutions to improve the enforcement of protection standards relating to peace?

Whether and to what extent sovereignty stymies cooperation on peace and other common concerns?

How has the practice and policy within each legal regime evolved in relation to peace?

Whether the legal regimes are negatively influenced by power interests?

Is there a lack of sufficient accountability mechanisms within each regime?

Should we pursue cross-field dialogues and initiatives between legal regimes to strengthen implementation of peace?

How do we conceive of peace normatively- is it a meta-right or value, is it a claim or liberty right, or is it rather an obligation?

What is the role of civil society within the pursuit of peace?

What is the impact of dispute resolution mechanisms, in particular courts, on peace?

What is the relationship between the pursuit of truth, justice, and accountability in the context of peacebuilding?

What is the relationship between democracy, development, human rights (in particular non-discrimination and equality) and peace, what are the preconditions for peace?

Is there a breach of the peace when a state uses violence against its own people?

Can we apply a gender perspective to the international law of peace?

How does peace relate to solidarity rights, such the right to clean environment, the right to development, and the ownership of the common heritage of mankind?

This book includes innovative chapters discussing the legal frameworks of trade, the environment, non-discrimination, development, human rights, transitional justice, constitutional law, and peace education, highlighting their value when articulating preconditions for peace, as well as challenges presented by the responsibility to protect.

This book places itself in the intersection between international law and peace studies, and is relevant for an audience in both fields. Professor Cecilia Bailliet created the first Masters level law course on the Right to Peace at the University of Oslo Norwegian Centre for Human Rights. Professor Kjetil M. Larsen is Research Director at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, where he researches and teaches human rights and humanitarian law. We hope that the book will inspire other law schools to create similar courses in order to promote a new era within the teaching of international law. The book can be ordered here

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