Chapter in From Bilateralism to Community Interest: Essays in Honour of Judge Bruno Simma 79 (Fastenrath et al. eds. 2011)

From Bilateralism to Publicness in International Law

Benedict Kingsbury & Megan Donaldson

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Bruno Simma entitled his celebrated Hague lectures “From Bilateralism to Community Interest in International Law.” His premise was that international law is, and should be, building on and evolving from its foundations in a minimal, statist system based on a series of consent-based bilateral legal relations of opposability between States (“bilateralism”), toward a legal order of something he termed “international community.” By this he meant a “more socially conscious legal order”, increasingly reflective of “community interests” as well as the narrower interests of States. The notion of an “international community” is employed both as a descriptive device, explaining and rendering intelligible certain developments in international legal doctrine and in international institutions, and as a way of embodying a normative view about what international law should increasingly (although not exclusively) be about. It is the existence of an “international community” of all individuals, and the capacity of international law to serve the interests of this community, that grounds international law’s promise of universalism.