International Law in the New World Order: Some Preliminary Reflections

Florida State University of Transnational Law and Policy, Vol. 1, pp. 1-21, 1992

Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Archival Collection

13 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2010

See all articles by Richard Bilder

Richard Bilder

University of Wisconsin Law School


This article, the initial article in a newly-launched Florida State University Law School international law journal, reflects on how the world has changed in the last decade of the twentieth century – especially with the end of the 1991 Gulf War, the collapse of Soviet and East European Communism, and the end of the “cold war” – and what this might mean in terms of the kind of international legal problems that might arise as the twentieth century ends and the new century begins. In particular, the article speculates about the fresh approaches and ideas that might be called for by the coming generation of international lawyers and where “the action” is likely to be for current law students expecting to enter the profession. The article suggests that, among the features of the international order that we are likely to see in the next few decades are: (1) changes in the structure or morphology of the international system, including, on the one hand, dramatic growth in the number of political actors, including non-state actors, such as global and regional organizations, individuals and groups, and, on the other hand, a strong trend towards economic integration; (2) a changing constellation of global power relationships; (3) increasing globalization and a profound change in the extent and character of transnational interactions and interdependence; (4) despite the collapse of Soviet Communism, the likelihood that other ideologies, such as Islamic fundamentalism, will continue to play a major role in world affairs; (5) continuing uncertainty as to the prospects for broad and more effective peacekeeping by the UN and other global and regional organizations; and (6) the continuation, or even worsening of many global problems – including widespread poverty, hunger, denials of human rights, ethnic conflict, international violence, environmental degradation and nuclear proliferation. The article suggests and discusses possible implications of these developments for international law including a need to: (1) find ways to simplify and rationalize the multiplication and complexity of national and international regulatory regimes designed to deal with the growing volume and diversity of international transactions; (2) re-examine the role of the state and traditional concept of sovereignty; (3) develop and adapt the structures and capabilities of the UN and other international institutions to emerging global challenges; (4) address more seriously and effectively, issues of global economic fairness, the equitable sharing of resources and protection of the global environment; (5) adopt measures to effectively implement the international protection of human rights; (6) deal more effectively and imaginatively with the pervasive problem of divided societies and ethnic racial and religious conflicts; (7) deal with the problem of proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; (8) develop more effective dispute settlement facilities and processes; (9) innovatively develop our international legal practices and ways of thinking – for example, by simplifying the law of state responsibility for injury to aliens, making more use of non-binding arrangements and “framework agreements”, arranging for more explicit consultation and coordination among different countries’ foreign office advisers and other working level officials, confronting the complex ethical and practical issues raised by intertemporal claims and conflicts, and closing the long-standing gulf between international lawyers and international relations specialists; and (10) confronting the recurrent issue of the appropriate role of international law in U.S. foreign policy. This article is a revised version of a Distinguished Lecture presented at the Florida State University School of Law in February 1992.

Keywords: nternational Law, new world order, international order, international legal system, U.S. foreign relations, U.S. foreign policy, U.S. foreign affairs

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Bilder, Richard, International Law in the New World Order: Some Preliminary Reflections. Florida State University of Transnational Law and Policy, Vol. 1, pp. 1-21, 1992, Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Archival Collection, Available at SSRN:

Richard Bilder (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

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