The evolution of the basic principles, procedures, and institutions of international law mirrors the manifold contradictory political and economic phenomena of the present: on the one side we witness a basic defeat of Western attempts to exercise influence in Eastern Europe (Kosovo and Ukraine) and in the Arabic world (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya), Islamist fundamentalisms, the failure of pro-democratic protests and revolts of the Arab spring, the internationalised civil war in Syria, waves of migration, the instability of many states in Africa, regional and global financial crisis and the economic rise of non-Western states. In a seemingly paradoxical movement, the ongoing globalisation of the markets is accompanied by a re-emphasis on classic “westphalian” sovereignty in the sense of autonomy and non-intervention at the expense of the aspect of responsibility. Deformalisation, that is forsaking public international law treaties in favour of informal arrangements is ongoing. This allows quick and flexible regulation but could undermine the normative power of international law.
The starting hypothesis of many research projects on the general problems of international law is that in the face of an increasing interdependence and an intensification of problems of a global nature (terrorism, climate, use of cyberspace, mass movements of people, etc.), the ongoing improvement of the effectiveness and legitimacy of international law is an objective of legal policy to which foundational research can contribute.
International law is a dynamic legal field which has been much refined in the past decades and which rsponds to contradictory political and economic trends. The book offers an overview of the historical development and the structures and mechanisms of international law. The focus is on central themes. These comprise the international legal persons, the sources of international law, international organisations, the universal prohibition on the use of force, the maintenance of peace and security by the United Nations, international responsibility and sanctions as well as dispute settlement and immunities.