International Disputes/Dimensions of State Sovereignty

News & Insights
May 3, 2013

International disputes span a range of subjects including: state to state disputes over boundaries and territory; state to state claims for damage and injury to citizens and property; disputes between private investors and states or state-owned companies pursuant to investment treaties or private contracts; claims of states or individuals against international organizations; and individuals’ claims against states for violations of international treaties, including the UN Charter, or the state’s responsibility under general international law. Such disputes may be litigated in international tribunals or domestic courts, or they may remain the subject of diplomatic negotiations. In fact, most international disputes are not resolved by adjudication but through negotiation. In every case, however, international law is an essential element of resolution of international disputes.

No longer are sovereign states the exclusive parties to international disputes. In some disputes, individuals, private and corporate, are among the parties. International agreements among states increasingly grant enforceable rights to private parties as well as to states. In addition, partly due to the rise of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and the growing activism of other non-state organizations in the role of advocates (and sometimes, litigants) for various transnational interests , there is a view that enforceable legal rights may arise in international law from sources other than the agreement or practice of sovereign states. Such rights, it is argued, may be based upon “international standards”, as distinguished from international agreements or customary international law. Examples are the practice of private companies that recognize obligations of “corporate social responsibility” or responsibilities for protection of the natural environment .

Whatever the nature of an international dispute, however, it will most frequently revolve around a question of the rights and responsibilities of one or more sovereign states or international organizations. In this blog, therefore, we will report and comment on the way that international disputes and their resolution affect the dimensions of state sovereignty. The blog will include reference sources, comments, and current developments. Our perspective is that of lawyers and experts with long experience as advisors and advocates for states, sub-state entities and individuals who have been parties to international disputes. Our approach is that of practitioners, not academics, and it is consistently grounded in international law.