Hard Decisons, Soft Laws : Exploring the authority and the political impact of soft law in international law (2003)
Repository: Linköping University Electronic Press (LiU E-Press)
The question of whether there is soft law in international law has been as much the subject of contemporary debate as whether or not there is private legal authority in the international society. The legal boundaries seem to be blurred by the process of globalisation and the recent shift in international law. The traditional definition of international law has been outdated as new forms of treaties has introduced new subject of law to the judicial arena. At the same time a supplementary map of law has been added to the cartography of international law, soft law. These correlating processes have comprehensive political and legal consequences at both the international and national levels. This essay examines and identifies soft law from a legal-political perspective and locates and explores private forms of legal authority on the map of contemporary international law. In respect to theory, it accounts for an interdisciplinary approach involving issues of both international law and international relations. In the process this study examines issues regarding the relative legal normativity and the blurring of legal authority in international law. The focus is on the legal character, the constitutive practices and the legal and political influence of soft law. It discusses the influence and power exerted by soft law over state actors in the international system and at the national level. The essay finds that soft law is of substantial relevance in the international ambit. To some extent a limited normative force of certain norms is recognized in soft law even though it is conceded that those norms would not be enforceable by an international court or other international organ. To say that it does not exist because it is not of the enforceable variety, might blind students of international law to another dimension of the landscape of international practice. Soft law does not translate to soft obligations in the reality of international society, and it seems to be some confusion surrounding the obligations conceived by it. The research here presented suggests that its political and legal power is substantial. The researched examples do not display any real private legal authority in soft law. This is because soft law is found to be a separate phenomenon from international law proper. However, soft law’s impact on national governments combined with the wider acceptance of the presence of private actors in the creation of soft law suggests that private power is noteworthy in comparison. In one of the studied examples, the soft law is concluded by private business representatives solely, but in requiring the status of soft law it is dependant on the recognition of the international and national legal bodies.