Dear members of the Society,
The year is not off to a good start…
Our international law is not going well and 2017 has not been good… Trump is challenging the post-war American multilateralism and the new silk roads built on a Chinese conception of sovereignty surely do not promise a bright future for the rule of law internationally. The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the United States (which will be followed by others) in defiance of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions is not an encouraging sign either. After China’s rejection of the ‘Philippine’ Award, that of the Slovenia/Croatia Award by the latter does not bode well for the peaceful settlement of inter-State disputes. And I am not sure that the Chagos case is very promising in that regard.
This is part of a long-term perspective. Let me put my foot in it. A few decades ago, the best international lawyers in the world were judges at the ICJ, and when they were not sitting on the bench, they were found at the ILC. This is far from being the case today: with scarce exceptions, the Commission is poisoned by mediocre jurists (when they are jurists at all) and the failure to elect Sir Christopher Greenwood at the ICJ (as well as Mathias Forteau at the ILC) is revealing and symbolic: States do not care a bit about the quality of “legal public services”.
A few years ago, I was concerned that States did not “trust” international law; at worst, I wrote, they violate it (but that is the nature of things: inviolable rules are not legal rules); at best, they consider it to be a useful tool for the day-to-day conduct of their external relations, but “peace through law” and “development through a new international legal order” are clearly slogans of a remote past. There are signs of new partial “faiths”, most notably in human rights and environmental law (though I am not sure I could confidently write this today since Mr. Trump does not seem to follow either of them, and neither Mr. Xi nor many others are fanatical of the former). However, these new cults are confined to “isms” (“humanrightism”, “environmentalism”…) which lose sight of the global common interest (even if they contribute to it). And I am not sure that we, the supposed Vestals of the Temple, have kept the sacred ﬁre: either we content ourselves with a “pragmatic”, breathless approach or we wallow in sterile “critical” approaches.
There are still a few reasons to hope. First, because the worst is not always sure and a half empty glass is also half full. Undoubtedly, the ICC’s current results are not brilliant, but the ICTY “closes” with a globally positive outcome. The denunciation of the Washington Convention by a few countries has not been followed and could provide an opportunity for a fruitful reflection on useful reforms, while the failure of the Doha talks has not prevented the WTO dispute settlement mechanism to continue, for the time being, to function properly. And Brexit could revitalise the European integration.
This mixed picture is certainly no reason to give up. On the contrary, it must encourage us to mobilize ourselves for the progress of international law, public and private, for sheltering it against the bad winds which threaten it, and for working towards its consolidation and progress. This is the very vocation of our Society.
It strives to do this as hard as it can – in spite of limited resources (do not forget that we “live” thanks to your contributions! See the precedent editorial on “Le nerf de l’action” in the archives of this site). To be noted in the coming months:
– 9 March 2018 : “journée d’actualité de la SFDI” (Université Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines);
– 31 May-1 June 2018: Colloquium “International Law and Health” (Université Droit et santé de Rennes);
– 28 and 29 September 2018: “journées franco-allemandes” (Colloquium Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationales Rechts (DGIR) / SFDI) on “The Treaty of Versailles” (Workshop of young researchers: 26 and 27 September – “The principle of self-determination a century after the Treaty of Versailles: from yesterday to today – and tomorrow?”);
– January 2019: Second International Meeting of Societies for International Law (The Hague; in cooperation with the American Society for International Law and under the auspices of the Academy of International Law).
And of course, the publications of the Lille colloquium (La souveraineté pénale de l’ État en droit international) and of the “journée d’étude franco-italienne” in Le Mans (Le standard de due diligence et la responsabilité internationale), the Suzanne Bastid and Jacques Mourgeon prizes, not to mention the activities of the Bureau des jeunes chercheurs.
And a little reminder: do not forget to point out the defences of theses that you direct or in the jury of which you sit, so that they are announced on the Society’s website (firstname.lastname@example.org).
All this, dear members of the Society, to tell you that, more than ever before, the Society needs you, international law needs you, and to thank you for your support.
I wish you, your loved ones and our dear and indispensable international law, a very beautiful and happy new year.
Alain PELLET, President of the SFDI