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date: 16 January 2018

Developing Countries and International Law

Summary and Keywords

The most fundamental characteristic of a developing state is that its income, usually calculated as gross national product (GNP) per capita, is relatively low in comparison with that of an industrial country. A second characteristic shared by most developing countries is that they are former colonies. In recognition of the diversity amongst developing countries, they are sometimes divided into subgroups. The term “Least Developed Country” is used to refer to some 50 of the most vulnerable states, whose economies are vastly smaller than those of China, India, Brazil, or Mexico. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is a group of states with emerging economies whose share of world trade, investment, and foreign currency reserve is projected to continue to grow. AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island States, is a 44-member coalition that functions as a negotiating voice for small island developing states (SIDS) within the United Nations system. The engagement of developing countries with international law typically comes in four aspects: the colonial past and contemporary continuities in international legal approaches and categories, attempts by newly independent Third World states to transform international law through the introduction of specific new legal principles, the effect of the increasing gap between the emerging economies of certain developing countries and the most vulnerable developing states, and whether structural impediments remain to the equitable participation of developing countries in international law.

Keywords: developing countries, developing states, colonialism, Least Developed Country, BRICS, AOSIS, China, Third World states

Introduction

Literature relevant to the relationship between developing countries and international law is necessarily located in more than one discipline; it can be found principally in international law, international relations, and international history. Within and across these disciplines, there are a number of relevant subfields, including postcolonial theory, poststructuralism, postmodernism, critical race theory, feminist international law scholarship, critical development theory, and critical Third World scholarship. International political economy and its counterpart, international economic law, as well as global environmental politics and international environmental law, are particularly relevant to this topic. Of course, scholars writing on any field of international law—whether it be human rights, international humanitarian law, or state responsibility—may on occasion address the contribution of developing countries to international law or the reception of international law in developing countries.

“Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL)” refers to a group of scholars who aim to enhance the participation in, and the influence of Third World scholars on, the discipline of international law. TWAIL scholars have sought to distinguish themselves from some of the pioneering Third World scholars such as Georges Abi-Saab, F. Garcia-Amador, R. P. Anand, Mohammed Bedjaoui, and Taslim Elias; TWAIL writers retrospectively group those influential scholars together as TWAIL I (Anghie & Chimni, 2003, pp. 79–80) and present themselves as TWAIL II.

TWAIL II scholars have continued the call for justice of the earlier Third World scholars. They have been influenced by postcolonial scholarship and have focused not only on the states, but on the peoples, of the Third World. Khosla (2007) argued that TWAIL scholarship was entering yet a third phase, characterized by a renewed focus on the role that powerful nations play in using international law to further their goals. TWAIL scholarship addresses resistance to projections of military, economic, political, cultural, or legal power over Third World peoples. Gathii (2011, p. 34) described TWAIL scholarship has having “expanded into an expansive, heterogenous, and polycentric dispersed network and field of study.”

After a brief consideration of the terminology of developing countries, the Third World, and the Global South as used in the literature on international law and developing countries, this article reviews the contemporary understanding of four aspects of the engagement of developing countries with international law: the colonial past and contemporary continuities in international legal approaches and categories, attempts by newly independent Third World states to transform international law through the introduction of specific new legal principles, the effect of the increasing gap between the emerging economies of certain developing countries and the most vulnerable developing states, and whether there are still structural impediments to the equitable participation of developing countries in international law. The discussion will conclude by reviewing the literature on the implications of the experience of developing countries with international law for the understanding of the system of international law as a whole.

Key Terms and Actors

The vast majority of states in the world today are developing countries, and more than 80% of people live in developing countries. The most fundamental characteristic of a developing state is that its income, usually calculated as gross national product (GNP) per capita, is relatively low compared to that of an industrial country. A second characteristic shared by most developing countries is that they are former colonies. Developing countries are sometimes referred to as the “Global South” because of the fact that the developed–developing division among countries corresponds roughly to the division of the globe into northern and southern hemispheres. Another related term is Third World, which came into use in the 1950s to refer to those countries then undergoing decolonization, and economically weak countries in Latin America. The First World consisted of the rich, industrialized countries, the Second World of communist bloc countries, and the Third World of those aligned with neither side in the Cold War. However, some scholars have rejected the term Third World as a remnant of the Cold War (Berger, 2004). Developing country is not a legal term per se, but it does appear in some treaties, most obviously those of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The term developing is sometimes criticized for assuming an ineluctable process of becoming more developed that does not accurately reflect the experience of many so-called developing states.

According to the United Nations (UN), there is no established convention for the designation of “developed” and “developing” countries or areas in the UN system (UNSTATS, 2013). The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) each produce alternative development taxonomies that reflect the mandate of the organization. A global poverty line, a human development index, and a gross national income measurement are three available taxonomies, and each can be thought of in terms of establishing an absolute or relative threshold. In 2009, the UNDP’s Human Development Report recognized that the distinction between “developed” and “developing” is “somewhat arbitrary” (UNDP, 2009, p. 21). Both terms are sometimes deemed pejorative, but the term Third World remains favored by many scholars of international law. In this article, the term developing country will be used interchangeably with Third World or Global South.

One of the dangers of using these terms is that they may give a misleading impression of a homogenous or unified group of states. This is not the case and never has been—consider, for example, the different interests of a small island state in the Pacific and an oil-exporting state in the Middle East. With the rapid industrialization of India and China, the diversity of interests is increasing. While the vast majority of developing countries are former colonies, this is not true of about 10% of them, including Ethiopia, Liberia, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand. Some of these which were not colonies were nevertheless in the sphere of influence of a Western power and, although Latin American states were colonies, they obtained their independence in the 19th century. The vast majority of developing countries are in the southern hemisphere, but China, which is usually classified as a developing country, is in the northern hemisphere.

In recognition of the diversity among developing countries, they are sometimes divided into subgroups. The term Least Developed Country (LDC) is used to refer to about 50 of the most vulnerable states, including Angola, Gambia, and Samoa, whose economies are obviously vastly smaller than those of China, India, Brazil, or Mexico. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is a group of states with emerging economies whose share of world trade, investment, and foreign currency reserves is projected to continue to grow. As a bloc, their share of global gross domestic product (GDP) has increased threefold in the past 15 years, and in purchasing power parity terms (PPP), the BRICS represent 30% of the world’s GDP, with predictions of a rise to 45% by about 2030 (UFA Russia, 2015). The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), is a 44-member coalition that functions as a negotiating voice for small island developing states (SIDS) within the UN system. United by the threat of environmental and climate change–related degradation, these states represent 20% of the total UN membership and 5% of the global population (AOSIS). It is important to recognize that there is a considerable diversity of wealth and circumstances not only among developing countries as a whole, but within a single developing country. There is a transnational elite with members in both developed and developing countries, and even in developed countries, there are poor people.

If “developed–developing” is not a clean dichotomy on empirical grounds, it does remain significant, insofar as the group of self-defined developing countries has worked as a coalition, particularly within intergovernmental organizations. This is in essence a political grouping, despite the fact that, to the extent that members of the Third World have a common perspective, it derives from their structural position within the global economy and their inability to exert a significant influence on world events (Williams, 1993, p. 9). On the global level, the Third World coalition has most prominently comprised the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a term coined by the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Group of Seventy-Seven (G77). NAM was founded in 1955 as a reaction to the East–West divide, but it never had a significant impact on East–West politics and was transformed into a multi-issue organization that was as concerned with economic as with political matters (Williams, 1993, p. 12). Its primary forum has been the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The G77 is a pressure group formed by developing countries in the mid-1960s to demand change in the international political economy, enhance joint negotiating capacity, and promote South-South cooperation for development. It initiates resolutions and decisions in the UN General Assembly, as well as in other UN bodies and specialized agencies, and produces declarations, programs, and agreements on issues related to development. It has retained its original name even though it now has about 130 members.

Not only have developing countries been in a weaker structural position in the global economy, but they also tend to have a less dominant position in respect of other indices of power, including political, military, and legal. International law is a medium through which states pursue their political and economic objectives, and so it is to be expected that if developing countries have faced structural impediments within the international system, international law has played a role in that process.

BRICS

The BRICS group initially formed in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008, after acknowledging an opportunity to promote its members’ newly recognized common interests and make progress at G20 summits (Cheng, 2015, p. 358). Brazil, Russia, India, China, and (since 2011) South Africa aligned themselves through a move from a liberal/unilateral to a development/multipolar set of social claims (Mielniczuk, 2013, p. 1087). Through annual summits (Yekarinburg in 2009, Brasilia in 2010, Sanya in 2011, New Delhi in 2012, Durban in 2013, Fortaleza in 2014, Ufa in 2015, Goa in 2016 and Xiamen in 2017) and associated declarations the BRICS members have contributed to development discourse and reassertion of the role of the state. However, the creation of international law or institutionalization has been notably absent from their mode of operation (Ban & Blyth, 2013, p. 252).

It is in the sphere of trade and monetary policy that the BRICS have most actively engaged with international law as a group of emerging economic powers. Rectification of imbalances with regard to preference erosion, differential treatment, obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and dispute settlement mechanisms were sought through the Doha round of trade talks beginning in 2002. The failure of the talks after seven years is attributed to the growing influence of China, Brazil, and India on world trade (Radipati, 2010, p. 339). The annual BRICS summits serve to strengthen economic interaction and trade among the members but do not necessarily represent the interests of the Global South as a whole (Rajagopal, 2012, p. 178). China and India could both be said to champion the rights of developing countries to equal participation in economic decision-making (Mielniczuk, 2013, p. 1084). Two reform agendas are pursued simultaneously by the BRICS countries: stronger representation in existing Bretton Woods institutions and alternatives to the existing system itself (Rajagopal, 2012, p. 178). As developing states with rising economies (none more so than China), the potential influence on global trade and development policy and the extent to which the BRICS will work with the existing system or pursue an alternative remains to be seen.

The Status of China as a Developing Country

Scholars have closely observed how China manages its dual status as an economic power and developing country (Breslin, 2010; Hsueh, 2012; Yuzhu, 2011). Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, in a speech delivered to the UN General Assembly in 2010, explained that his country had moved from “subsistence” to “moderate prosperity,” but remained a developing country. In 2010, China’s GDP was the third-largest globally, although in per-capita terms, it was one-tenth that of developed countries, with 150 million people living below the poverty line (Jiabao, 2010, p. 42). China has shifted its developing-world policy from being guided by ideology to focusing on mutually beneficial economic and political relationships (Zheng, 2010, p. 1189). China’s solidarity with developing states is exemplified through its strong emphasis on sovereignty and nonintervention, and promotion of economic and social rights.

Although perceived to be considerably active in Africa, China’s overall outward foreign investment (OFDI) in Africa is 3.8% of its total, accounting for just over 1% of the global total (Huiping, 2013, p. 228). In 2016, China established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to provide funds for the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, also known as the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiatives, along with other infrastructure development in Asia (Yu, 2017, p. 354). The New Development Bank (NDB), announced by BRICS at the July 2014 summit in Fortaleza, is designed to foster development cooperation among the five emerging markets. With both banks headquartered in China (NDB in Shanghai and AIIB in Beijing), they offer an alternative to the U.S.-dominated World Bank and IMF.

Ahead of the post-2015 Global Development Agenda meeting, President Xi Jinping proposed the concept of “a community of common destiny” whereby no one is left behind. He said that common development is the foundation of sustainable development, and this serves the fundamental interests of all peoples. As globalization increases interdependence among states, the destinies of all human beings are more closely linked. In broad terms, China has deepened its participation in international law during the reform era (Hanqin, 2012, p. 257). International law from a Chinese perspective is Westphalian and based on a horizontal order. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, first codified in the 1954 bilateral agreement with India (299 UNTS 57), remains a cornerstone of China’s approach to international law.

The growing diversity among developing countries continues to shape their approach to international law as the interests of the BRICS countries and the LDCs widen. Perkins (2013, p. 1006) sees the developing world as a diversifying space according to five categories: uneven economic development, diversifying sustainable development challenges, uneven governance capabilities, geopolitical diversity, and internal heterogeneity. With the establishment of new financial institutions, greater control of development policy by the Global South for the Global South is emerging. Developing countries, though, regardless of their level of economic development, continue to bear the historical legacy of underdevelopment.

Colonialism and Its Legacies in International Law

Perhaps the most obvious dimension to the bias of international law against developing countries is historical: as emphasized by TWAIL scholars, international law has served the interests of the colonizers rather than the colonized, and the legacy of that era can be seen in the Eurocentricity of the contemporary international legal system (Gathii, 1998; Anghie, 2006). The mainstream historiography of international law regards the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 as having confirmed the European territorially defined system of states. This system then spread geographically between the 16th and the 19th centuries, with international law being transformed through that process into a global system of law.

European-originated international law is not the only international law to have developed—civilizations in other parts of the world, including pre-colonial Africa and South Asia, had their own systems governing relations among states. Some of the first generation of Third World scholars, therefore, protested the reading of the history of international law along purely European lines. Anand (1966, p. 57), however, pointed out that even if there are some similarities between the principles and rules developed in these systems and contemporary international law, there is no connection between the ancient principles and the present system of international law, which was consolidated only during the last part of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

Historians of international law have long pointed to colonialism as the vehicle for the spread of international law and to the role of international law in colonial exploitation. TWAIL II scholars have gone much further, however, “to challenge conventional histories of the discipline which present colonialism as peripheral, an unfortunate episode that has long since been overcome by the heroic initiatives of decolonisation” (Anghie, 2007, p. 3). Instead, they emphasize that colonialism was constitutive of international law and that international law cannot be separated from the colonial past. According to Rajagopal (2003, p. 292), this is true even of international human rights law:

According to [the mainstream historical approach of international lawyers], international human rights is the product of western humanist reaction to the horrors of the Nazi era, but is intellectually grounded in western political theory of Locke, Kant, and Rousseau. It bears no relationship to the “old” international law of colonialism, and owes nothing to anti-colonial struggles as intellectual forebears. Instead, I suggest[ed] that the discursive field of human rights—its symbols, apparatuses, and doctrines—was significantly shaped during the inter-war transition from colonialism to development, as well as by the apparatuses that were developed to manage anti-colonial resistance movements.

The integral relationship between international law, colonialism, and Third World resistance can best be illustrated through considering some specific examples of bodies of law or legal concepts integral to the colonial encounter and their ongoing relevance within international law. Let us consider three in the following discussion.

The Law of Territorial Acquisition

The political nature of a legal regime can often be understood when the regime is viewed from the perspective of the issue addressed by that body of law: namely, for whom was this an issue, and whose interests were prioritized in using that regime to settle that issue? One issue addressed by international law during the colonial era was how to regulate which European state could acquire which portion of overseas territory. This was settled through the application by European states of the law of territorial acquisition. When a European state encountered a political unit interacting with other political units in a manner to which it could relate, international law required that the unit be respected as a like form of legal entity, and the state should conduct relations with it on the basis that it was an international political–legal unit in its own right.

C. H. Alexandrowicz wrote extensively about the interaction between the European powers and the East Indies from the 15th century onward. By the term East Indies, he meant the Indian subcontinent, and Further India extended to Burma, Ceylon, Siam, Malay, and the Indonesian islands and, in some cases, Persia and other countries in the Persian Gulf (Alexandrowicz, 1968, p. 129). According to Alexandrowicz (1968, pp. 161–162), treaties concluded between a European country and East Indian political unit typically dealt with a range of interstate activities, including trade, mediation and arbitration, asylum, and extradition, gradually regularizing relations between members of the two international political systems, and they were not all one way. There are examples of treaties giving Asian traders in Europe the same type of benefits as those enjoyed by European traders in Asia (Alexandrowicz, 1958). Diplomatic relations were also established (Alexandrowicz, 1960, pp. 297–308).

Territory external to the European states system and not already accounted for in terms of a political unit with a central government or ruler capable of conducting external relations on behalf of that entity in a manner to which a European state could relate was regarded as available to be simply subsumed as a noncontiguous geographical extension of that European state (Scott, 1996). Land available for simple absorption was referred to as “terra nullius,” and such land could be acquired by occupation, cession, and/or conquest. It was legal to use force in such situations, so long as war was conducted in accordance with contemporary legal standards. The law of territorial acquisition thereby discriminated against any peoples not politically organized along similar lines to the European states. It was not designed to protect the interests of peoples external to the European states system; rather, it functioned to facilitate the division of the globe among European states.

Until recently, a standard textbook on international law still contained a chapter on the international law of territorial acquisition (e.g., Malanczuk, 1997). This body of international law remains relevant to contemporary international law, insofar as it underpinned the European acquisition of territory in many portions of the globe. While the Antarctic continent is currently governed by the Antarctic Treaty System, for example, were this system to break down, the status of the seven national territorial claims would once more come to the fore in debates regarding future sovereignty over the continent.

The Principle of the Bifurcation of Civilization

At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the great powers—United Kingdom, Prussia, Austria, and Russia—formed the Concert of Europe, which established civilization as the criterion for membership. Asian states that had previously entered into treaties with European states were now regarded as not suitable and lost their legal designation (Anand, 1966, p. 59). Gong (1984, p. 14) traced the emergence of the standard of civilization in customary international law during the 19th century. He claimed that by 1905 at the latest, a standard of civilization had become an explicit principle of international law. There were five requirements for a civilized state: it must guarantee basic rights; exist as an organized political bureaucracy; adhere to generally accepted international law, including the laws of war, and maintain a domestic system of law guaranteeing legal justice for all within its jurisdiction; maintain adequate avenues for diplomatic interchange; and conform by and large to the accepted norms of civilized international society (Gong, 1984, pp. 14–15).

The standard of civilization is no longer found within international law, but some scholars see continuities between that concept and others currently in vogue. Even development, which became prominent in the 1960s as a concept of providing assistance to the Third World, has been subject to scrutiny more recently as being just another standard of civilization, which, together with “good governance,” necessitates opening the economies of the Third World to that which is good for the wealthy countries (Rajagopal, 2003, p. 61). Donnelly (1998) referred to human rights as a new standard of civilization; and according to Chimni (2003, p. 56), it is no accident that the “omnipresence of the discourse of human rights” has coincided with increasing pressure on developing countries to implement neoliberal policies. Zaum (2007, p. 40) identifies five elements of a new standard of civilization: administrative effectiveness, human rights, democratization, rule of law, and the establishment of a free market economy.

The Law of Treaties

The colonial legacy remains integral to international law, not only because of the issues of that era addressed in specific legal regimes that remain embedded in international law, but because of the issues that were left unaddressed, which remain inadequately addressed in the contemporary system of international law. One of these is the issue of “unequal treaties,” a term associated with treaties imposed on China, Siam, and Japan in the 19th century. They were often concluded at gunpoint and included provisions on extraterritoriality, nonreciprocal tariff and most-favored-nation privileges, the cession or leasing of territories (such as Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula to Great Britain), and the stationing of foreign military units in a territory (Cohen & Chiu, 1974, p. 1114).

Anand (2003) recounted the story of how, once Japan had signed the Treaty of Peace, Amity and Commerce with the United States in 1854, it had to sign several unequal treaties with European countries that opened its ports for trade and provided for low custom tariffs, as well as giving the European countries extraterritorial rights in criminal and civil matters. Humiliated, the Japanese “understood well that the only way to revise these humiliating treaties was to join the family of the so-called civilized states, which could be done only if they civilized themselves and Europeanized or westernized themselves to join them at the same level” (Anand, 2013, p. 96). Hence followed the rapid Westernization of Japan; its adoption of new customs, languages, clothes, and legal codes based on those of Europe; and learning European international law. The Japanese Society of International Law was established in 1897, and the Japanese Journal of International Law followed in 1902. Japan also adopted aggressive policies toward Korea and China. “All these aggressive policies of Japan had the desired effect on the western powers and Japan was beginning to be recognized as a ‘civilized’ state worthy to be admitted in the European family of nations” (Anand, 2003, p. 71).

The unequal treaties imposed on Asian countries became symbols of oppression, so it might have been expected that decades later, in 1969, when the law of treaties was being codified in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, unequal treaties would have been made illegal. This was not the case, however. By article 52, a treaty is void “if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.” Implicit in this language is an assumption that sovereign states are unlikely to enter willingly into unequal treaties, or if they do so, it is as an expression of their sovereign will. In contrast, several of the “cornerstone treaties” of global governance can be regarded as having unequal provisions (Scott, 2008). Two of the most obvious examples are the Charter of the United Nations, with the enormous legal powers given to the permanent members of the Security Council, and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which was designed to prevent additional states becoming nuclear-armed but did not outlaw the possession of nuclear weapons by those states already so equipped.

Developing Countries Endeavor to Harness International Law to Improve Their Position in the International Order

In the decades following World War II, the empires of Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and France broke down in a relatively rapid process of decolonization. The term decolonization implies an undoing of what had been established, but the trouble was that colonialism had not only been a politico-legal, but an economic project. Achieving political and legal emancipation did not lead to economic emancipation for these former colonies. In fact, the international economic system appeared to be structured so as to discriminate against the newly emergent states, as captured by the term neoimperialism. Looking back, Robert Cooper saw the “very act of decolonisation [as having been] a last imperial imposition since it gave Africans and Asians a system based on a purely European model and alien to their own history.” In Africa and the Middle East, the nation-state has been a “manifest failure both for individual countries, their citizens, and for the region as a whole” (Pham, 2005, p. 205).

Despite the role that international law had played in their subjugation, the new states did not reject it in any wholesale fashion (Anand, 1966, p. 70). Many of them accepted the treaties concluded on their behalf by the former colonial powers, at least until they were able to modify, renegotiate, or replace them with the consent of the other parties. When India became independent in 1947, for example, it considered itself bound to 627 treaties concluded by the British Indian government (Anand, 1966, p. 71). Third World states stressed sovereignty as a form of protection against military, economic, political, or any other form of intervention. Developing countries also attempted to develop international legal concepts, principles, and organizations that they could use to improve their position in the international order. The first generation of scholarship on international law and the Third World, therefore, was integral to a political campaign being conducted by states, primarily in international institutions.

Some of the initial results were at least partially encouraging. In the 1950s and 1960s, developing countries achieved some Special and Differentiated Treatment in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) for LDCs through the introduction of a Generalized System of Preferences. Pressure by developing countries for greater international economic justice led to the creation in 1964 of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Work undertaken here led to the campaign for a New International Economic Order (NIEO), as discussed next.

A New International Economic Order (NIEO)

The term New International Economic Order (NIEO) was coined in the mid-1960s by a group of French academic lawyers. These lawyers, including Virally (1965), promoted an “international law for development,” which was conceived not as a separate branch of international law, but as a new approach to the whole body of law (Garcia-Amador, 1990, p. 18). Writers on the NIEO were influenced by structural dependency theorists, who explained that, through colonialism, the economies of the Global South had become satellites of the North. In one of the classics of the NIEO literature, Towards a New International Economic Order, Mohammed Bedjaoui (1979, p. 11) referred to the “colonial pact” under which the colonies had served as a reservoir of raw materials and an outlet for finished products. According to Rajamani (2006, p. 18), political independence had left intact a situation in which the Third World states were dependent on the North for both imports and exports, which meant that they were worse off than subsistence economies.

The NIEO was announced by the G77 in the 1973 Algiers Declaration and was promoted within UNCTAD and the UN General Assembly. UNGA Resolution 3201, the “Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order,” and UNGA Resolution 3202, the “Programme of Action on the Establishment of a NIEO,” were the products of a special session of the General Assembly devoted to the subject. As set out in Resolution 3201, changes to the international economic order were to be based on a specific set of principles, including the following:

  • Sovereign equality of states, self-determination of all peoples, inadmissibility of the acquisition of territories by force, territorial integrity, and noninterference in the internal affairs of other states

  • Full and effective participation on the basis of the equality of all countries in solving world economic problems, in the common interest of all countries

  • The right of every country to adopt the economic and social system that it deems most appropriate for its own development

  • Full permanent sovereignty of every state over its natural resources and all its economic activities

  • Regulation and supervision of the activities of transnational corporations by taking measures in the interest of the national economies of the countries where such transnational corporations operate, on the basis of the full sovereignty of those countries

  • Preferential and nonreciprocal treatment for developing countries, wherever and whenever feasible, in all fields of international economic cooperation

  • Giving developing countries access to the achievements of modern science and technology, and promoting the transfer of technology and the creation of indigenous technology for the benefit of the developing countries

Developed states “did not rush to accede to these demands” (Henkin, 1979, p. 208). UNGA Resolution 3281 contained the “Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States,” adopted on December 12, 1974 (Rozenthal, 1976; Meagher, 1979; Chowdhury, 1980), but this did not give rise to a treaty containing legally binding obligations. There has been no NIEO. By the early 1990s, the term NIEO was of primarily historical interest, although elements of the NIEO platform have reemerged in other contexts.

The Special and Differentiated Treatment that developing countries had achieved in the 1960s did not survive the Uruguay round of GATT (Maswood, 2006, p. 88). Although developing countries were granted some special rights in the WTO agreements, they are not as far-reaching as those under GATT because developing countries have incurred significantly greater obligations overall, and the Special and Differential Treatment provisions now consist mainly of special transitional period and special import thresholds (Shaffer, Mosot, & Quereshi, 2003, p. 24). According to Cullet (2003, p. 182), differentiation has been successful only when the Global North also finds an interest in its application.

The Right to Development

References to a right to development were made as early as the process leading to the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Mickelson, 1998, p. 374). The Bandung Declaration issued at the conclusion of the Asian African Conference in 1955 enshrined human rights principles as contained in the United Nations Charter. The first comprehensive treatment of the right to development as a human right is attributed to judge Kéba Mbaye (Mickelson, 1998, p. 375). The failed attempt to have the NIEO enshrined in international law evolved into a quest on the part of developing countries for recognition of a right to development as a fundamental human right. Western states have opposed such a collective right, which appears to imply corresponding duties on their part. In Resolution 41/128 of December 4, 1986, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right of Development (UNGA Res 41/128 of December 4, 1986). The Declaration of the 1993 Vienna Human Rights Conference proclaimed the right to development to be a “universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights” (Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, World Conference on Human Rights, 25 June 1993). The declaration has been critiqued as providing an unclear definition of collective and individual rights (Fukuda-Parr, 2012, p. 845) and derided as an amalgam of every category of human right (Uvin, 2004, p. 3). But it is also credited for mobilizing opinions, challenging orthodoxies, and building consensus on key issues (Ibhawoh, 2011, p. 78).

The right to development as a human right has been largely supplanted by the concept of sustainable development. Acharya (2007, pp. 411–12) has been critical of the role of developed countries in this process:

The concept of sustainable development was born from the tension between the developed and developing countries—the environment as perceived by the developed world and development as perceived by the developing world. [. . .] The doctrine of sustainable development has [. . .] become a convenient tool for the developed world to undermine the developing world’s core demand of the right to development as conceptualized in the NIEO and the UN Declaration on the Right to Development. The right to development has been diluted within the mixed concept of environment and development—sustainable development—and the developed world can, at its discretion, decide when and what priority should be given to which element of the sustainable development amalgam, either the environment or development. By enfolding the development concern of the developing world within the concept of sustainable development, the compromise between the two worlds has earned legitimacy without any legal commitment to the development efforts of the developing countries.

In stark contrast to the Bandung Declaration of 1955, which envisioned human rights as central to the sort of world order being sought, the Sanya Declaration of 2011 resulting from the BRICS summit makes scant mention of human rights in relation to development.

World leaders gathered at the Millennium Summit in September 2000, and agreed eight time-bound and qualified targets for addressing extreme poverty, known as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In September 2015, the international community met at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit to negotiate a post-2015 Global Development Agenda (GDA) to succeed the MDGs and provide a framework for the future of global development. The Summit agreed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets (UNGA A/Res/70/1 October 21, 2015). Follow-up is being undertaken by the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

Paupp (cited in Sharp, 2015, p. 25) considers that the relative decline of the United States may make possible an attempt to enshrine the human right to development as more than mere “soft law.”

The Common Heritage of Mankind (CHM) Principle

The Third World developed the principle of the common heritage of mankind (CHM) and successfully had it incorporated into several treaties. Although the exact content of the principle was never settled, it evolved so as to incorporate the ideas that neither the CHM area nor its resources can be owned or subject to appropriation of any kind; that the CHM must be managed in common by all humans; that there must be an active sharing of benefits derived from exploration and exploitation of the CHM; and that the CHM area must be used solely for peaceful purposes (Carlsson, 1997, p. 28). The principle gained greatest acceptance in space law, and it was incorporated into the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, Article 1 of which states that the exploration and use of outer space shall be the common province of all humanity. Further, Article 4 of the Moon Treaty provides that the exploration and use of the moon “shall be the province of all mankind and shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development.” The trouble was that only a few states ever ratified the Moon Treaty.

From the early 1980s until 1994, a campaign ran in the General Assembly arguing that Antarctica was the “common heritage of mankind.” This was particularly significant because of the potential mineral resources of the continent. The campaign was unsuccessful, and after the Antarctic Treaty System adopted a moratorium on mining in Antarctica in the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty, the campaign ended. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea applied the CHM principle to the seabed outside national jurisdiction, but the United States and other developed countries rejected the relevant provisions of the treaty. In 1994, an agreement was signed that effectively amended the Law of the Sea Convention to remove the application to the seabed of the CHM principle.

Do Structural Impediments Remain?

Developing Countries and the Sources of International Law

The Global South continues to exert less influence than the Global North over the creation of international law. It remains difficult for the Global South to place an issue on the global agenda, be assured of its attracting the serious attention of the North, and have international law come to address that issue in a way that improves the lives of people in the Global South. Social action litigator, Shedrack Agbakwa sets out the case, for example, for why a far-reaching and effective regime is needed to protect people in the Third World from human rights violations by multinational corporations (Anghie et al., 2003). Such a proposed regime has not come into existence, despite its echoes of the NIEO of the 1970s. Developing countries, however, did have an unusual success in achieving the Doha Declaration, which assured developing countries that they would not be subject to penalties under TRIPS for addressing health issues such as AIDS. Odell and Sell (2006) attribute this success, at least in part, to the way in which developing countries and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reframed the issue, from that of TRIPS as a better alternative than tolerating the piracy of private property, to TRIPS as preventing access by poor people suffering from HIV/AIDS to potentially life-saving drugs.

Developing countries have often been at a disadvantage in multilateral negotiations, through which much treaty law is created, because the relevant foreign offices cannot afford to employ sufficient lawyers to span the range of issues to be addressed and there may in any case be inadequate lawyers available with the relevant training and experience. The offices also cannot afford to send as large a delegation to the conferences at which multilateral treaties are negotiated (see Netanel, 2009, regarding treaty-making in the World Intellectual Property Organization). In many cases, the delegation may consist of only one person. Chasek and Rajamani (2003) documented the ways in which a small delegation is disadvantaged: It does not have as large a range of expertise on which to draw, it is not able to participate in as many simultaneous negotiating sessions, and it is less likely to have continuity from previous negotiations on the subject.

Developing countries are also at a disadvantage in the making of customary international law. Kelly (2008) criticized the Declarative Model of Customary International Law, by which the repetitive iteration of norms in resolutions at international forums is said to indicate general acceptance of the norm without the associated empirical evidence of states accepting it and acting accordingly. According to Kelly (2008), the notion that a failure to protest indicates a preparedness to be bound by an emergent rule is far-fetched, considering that few if any states have the legal and financial resources to monitor the multitude of incidents of potential relevance, assess their possible implications, and respond in a timely fashion. Kelly (2000, pp. 468, 472) noted a tendency among Western scholars to

prematurely conclude that one’s policy preferences, particularly when shared by other Western societies, have become customary norms. In making these assessments, Western writers virtually ignore the domestic policies and perspectives of non-Western cultures [. . .] The practices and attitudes of Japan, China, and the many nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America are virtually ignored in the Western literature.

Academic publishing in general can be said to perpetuate North–South relations, with rankings of journals and taxonomies of academic performance continuing to favor publications from the United States and the United Kingdom (Merilainen, Tienan, Thomas, & Davies, 2008). This Northern hegemony is clearly evident in international law scholarship and education (Anghie & Chimni, 2003, p. 86). The status accorded to studying, working, and publishing in the United States or Europe, combined with the lack of resources and career opportunities in many developing countries, mean that a number of the scholars from developing countries who are well known in the field have built their careers in the North rather than in their own country. Chimni (2011, p. 15) lamented the lack of critical scholarship and a reticence to be critical of the home government or policy. Writings exploring the attitude of the Third World toward international law have often been published by British or North American publishers. For example, the Chinese Journal of International Law is published by Oxford University Press, and the African Year Book of International Law by Martinus Nijhoff in the Netherlands.

Where the developing countries might have expected to exert increasing influence over the sources of international law through sheer numbers, this has not necessarily been the case. The turning point in the UN General Assembly came in 1960, with the entry of an additional 17 African states into the United Nations. This meant that developing countries, if voting together, could readily block a resolution of the developed countries and were in a strong position to initiate and ensure the passing of their own resolutions. But the West has been eager to downplay the legal significance of General Assembly resolutions as not creating new international law in themselves.

Some scholars in the 1970s, particularly Bedjaoui and others from the Third World, argued that General Assembly resolutions should be considered a new source of law, or at least a step toward the formation of customary international law (Flory, 1982, p. 18). Asamoah (2012, p. 3) has pointed to three instances when the General Assembly makes binding decisions and hence could be considered a source of law: in the admission, expulsion, and selection of members; in addressing itself to subordinate organs; and (citing the disposition of Italian colonies in Africa) when states confer legislative competence.

Within international organizations, there has been a trend away from majority voting, which had come to favor developing countries, and toward consensus voting. Consensus voting, in which a decision is made in the absence of objections, has served the West. According to critics, huge pressure has been placed on developing countries in the WTO not to prevent consensus, while the United States has used the method to give itself a veto (Maswood, 2006, p. 170). Things have been changing quite rapidly in the WTO since about 1990, however. By 2007 developing countries made up more than three-quarters of membership and were increasingly able to exert influence through coalitions (Rolland, 2007). During and after the Uruguay round of GATT (1986–1994), developing countries’ coalition behavior became more complex. They no longer operated as a single G77 grouping; leading developing countries increasingly formed pragmatic coalitions both with other developing and with developed countries on specific issues of common interest. Developed countries have responded with vote trading, coupled with coercive tactics aimed at breaking down coalitions of developing countries (Eldar, 2008, p. 27). Although developing countries in the WTO are now clearly able to block the conclusion of an agreement, this is not the same thing as being able to bring about an agreement favorable to them. LDCs lack the capacity to engage in complex coalition activity.

While structural impediments to developing countries using international law to their advantage remain, developing countries have been in a strong bargaining position on some environmental matters of global significance. It is here that we see some contemporary examples of differential treatment. Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development of June 14, 1992, enunciates the Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR):

States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect, and restore the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem. In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, states have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.

The types of provisions in environmental treaties incorporating differential provisions have been usefully classified by Rajamani (2006, p. 93) as follows:

  • Provisions that differentiate between industrial and developing countries with respect to the central obligations contained in the treaty, such as emissions reduction targets;

  • Provisions that differentiate between industrial and developing countries with respect to implementation, such as delayed compliance schedules, permission to adopt subsequent base years, delayed reporting schedules, and soft approaches to non-compliance; and

  • Provisions that grant assistance, inter alia, financial and technological.

The ozone depletion regime, an early example of differentiation, incorporated technology cooperation between developed and developing states and a financial mechanism. The Conference of Contracting Parties to the Wetlands Convention decided in 1990 to establish a fund maintained by voluntary contributions that would provide assistance to developing countries for activities undertaken to further the purposes of the convention (Cullet, 2003, p. 108). In 1991, the World Bank established the Global Environment Facility, the largest financial mechanism devoted to solving global environmental problems.

With respect to climate change, there has over the last decade been a gradual shift to parallelism, to a symmetry of responsibilities between developing and developed countries (Rajamani, 2013, p. 161). The Copenhagen Accord of 2009, though not formally a part of the UNFCCC process, effectively promoted flexibility of the mitigation obligations. The Cancun Agreements of 2010, which were part of the UNFCCC process, embedded a flexible approach by permitting state self-selection of mitigation targets and actions. The Durban Action Plan of 2011 left out references to common but differentiated responsibility and equity altogether, paving the way for a post-2020 agreement that will be universally applied (Rajamani, 2013, p. 164). Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) as part of the Paris Agreement, encourage state self-selection of targets, though inclusion of the principle of common by differentiated responsibility remains contentious (Climate Council, 2015, p. 7). Article 2(2) does however specify that “The [Paris] Agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances” (Paris Agreement, 2015). Although moves toward parallelism are in progress, differentiation between “developed” and “developing” countries within the climate change regime is an embedded principle.

Do Structural Impediments Remain?

Developing Countries and International Courts

Developing countries were initially distrustful of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), primarily because the body of law that it applied had been European in origin and created to serve European interests. This distrust was increased by the Court’s decision in the International Status of Southwest Africa Case in 1966 (Warioba, 2001, p. 44), and the French withdrawal from the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ after the Nuclear Test Cases, that of the United States after the Nicaragua Case, and the withdrawal from compulsory jurisdiction by six of the nine nuclear armed states in the Republic of the Marshall Islands Case confirmed the impression that major powers did not use adjudication when their vital interests were at stake.

The decisions of the Court appeared more political than in a domestic court, and it seemed more difficult for a smaller power to have a judge elected to the Court than it was for a major power (Warioba, 2001, p. 46). It is understandable that developing countries were not overly enthusiastic about committing themselves to compulsory ICJ jurisdiction (Romano, 2002, p. 545). Although developing countries supported the creation of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) through the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, they played a particular role in the process by which the bench would be constituted. The tribunal is composed of 21 independent members elected by secret ballot, which gives developing countries a strong influence.

The participation of developing countries in international litigation has increased greatly in recent years, although this is more true of Asian states than, for example, many states of the Caribbean and Africa (Romano, 2002, p. 610). Two key reasons are having the requisite expertise and the high cost of international litigation. The standard in international litigation is for each party to pay its own costs, although some judicial bodies, including the ICJ, have the power to make an order favoring one or the other party (Romano, 2002, p. 553). In 1989, the General Assembly established the Secretary-General’s Trust Fund to Assist States in the Settlement of Disputes through the ICJ, a system of legal aid, but this only assists states involved in cases in which the basis of jurisdiction is an ad hoc agreement. A Trust Fund for ITLOS was established in 2001.

Dispute resolution under the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) is much more formal and legalized than it had been under GATT. A decision of a dispute settlement panel or the Appellate Body can be rejected only when there is a consensus of all the member-states. Conventional wisdom has it that binding, third-party dispute resolution is an advantage for smaller, less powerful states, whose bargaining leverage in an informal, negotiation-based process of dispute resolution would not be strong.

Research on the experience of developing countries in the WTO, however, has found that while it has indeed offered certain advantages to developing countries, poorer countries have expressed frustration with or indifference to the DSU. Smith (2004) gives three reasons for this. First, the rules enforced under the DSU are systematically biased in favor of advanced industrial economies. Even if one disagrees with that position, developing countries can be deterred from litigating if issues are likely to become linked—if, for example, an advanced country threatens to withdraw benefits such as development aid from a developing country in retaliation for legal action. Second, the cost of litigating is too high for some developing countries, and third, the system of remedies relies on economic sanctions, which favors larger economies that can better absorb the costs of retaliation.

This raises again the issue of what Busch, Reinhardt, and Shaffer (2008) refer to as legal capacity: “the institutional resources required to prepare and prosecute disputes.” Legal capacity has always been an issue at the ICJ. When developing countries are represented at the ICJ, their principal legal representatives tend to be employed by firms from developed countries (Gaubatz & MacArthur, 2000–2001, p. 247). The WTO dispute resolution system has become so complex that it requires a great deal of legal specialization to be able to engage in litigation. The WTO Secretariat provides technical assistance to developing countries, and the Advisory Centre on WTO Law was established in 2001 as an intergovernmental organization that provides training and legal services to developing and transitional economy countries that are members of the center, as well as to all least-developed countries (Palma, 2005).

And yet even U.S. trade officials usually supplement their expertise with input from private firms and trade associations, and they do not have the challenge of working in a foreign language (Shaffer et al., 2003, pp. 21, 27). Three-quarters of all WTO disputes have been launched by members of a small group of states of which the United States and European Union have been by far the most prominent. Through their engagement with the system, these countries have built up a pool of knowledge and experience—which indeed, has affected the process and developing body of WTO law. This is to their benefit in subsequent cases, as well as when settlements are negotiated in “the law’s shadow” rather than through the formal processes (Shaffer et al., 2003, p. 12).

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 1998 to prosecute individuals responsible for heinous crimes such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The Court can exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed on the territory of a state by individuals of a state that accepts its jurisdiction. It may also exercise jurisdiction through referral by the Security Council to the prosecutor. The complementarity principle underpins the operation of the Court. It establishes that the Court may assume jurisdiction only when the state is either unable or unwilling to exercise jurisdiction; the ICC is not intended to replace national courts, but rather to operate when they do not (Arsanjani, 1999, p. 25). In effect, most investigations have taken place on the African continent, with nine out of ten “situations under investigation,” all four “trial stage” cases and all five “closed stage” cases emanating from states in Africa (ICC, 2017). Mamdani (2008) accuses the Court of targeting adversaries of the U.S. government and ignoring U.S. allies, thereby becoming a Western court to try African crimes against humanity.

The indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan in 2009 provoked a strong reaction, with the African Union requesting that the Security Council defer the case so as not to undermine ongoing regional peace efforts [African Union Assembly/AU/Dec. 245(XIII)]. Rwandan president Paul Kagame has called the ICC a new form of imperialism created by the West and put in place for poor countries (Odero, 2011, p. 155).

What Does the Experience of Developing Countries Tell Us About International Law as a System?

It is difficult not to be pessimistic regarding the role of international law in world politics after reviewing the way in which colonial encounters have been integral to the evolution of international law, the experience of developing countries in the early years after decolonization, and the ongoing structural disadvantages faced by developing countries. For example, based on his research of the experience of developing countries in the evolution of the modern law of the sea, Payoyo (1997, p. 462) concluded that it seems that international law “is truly incapable of removing old inequities, but is eminently adaptable in generating new ones.” Ikejiaku (2013, p. 356) argued that manipulation by the West of international law serves as the key instrument that perpetuates severe inequality and only a complete redrafting of international law with the participation of states of the Global South can lead to global peace and security. This raises some fundamental questions regarding the nature of international law. If international law so far has served only as a tool of exploitation, does that mean that it will necessarily do so in the future? The postmodern legal scholarship of the 1990s tended to answer the question in the negative. As Andreas Paulus has written (2001, p.738):

[U]ncovering the colonial and biased origins of modern International Law, postmodern criticism has proven its incapability for the solution of contemporary problems beyond repair [. . .] The central question for today is what to do about them, whether those structures can, in spite of their problematic origins, be useful in the contemporary world and may even help to undermine the very results of colonialism and suppression which we find unacceptable.

One’s position on the question as to whether international law could evolve to enable developing countries to improve their position in the international order necessarily reflects underlying theoretical positions on the question of the relation of law to power, as well as the understanding that one has of the significance of the passage of time. Is history cyclical, for example, or does it progress ineluctably toward a better future? Marxist writing on international law is pessimistic. Chimni (2003, p. 47) began his “Manifesto” on TWAIL with the words: “The threat of recolonisation is haunting the third world.” Miéville (2005, p. 316) asserted: “I see no prospect of a systematic progressive political project or emancipatory dynamic coming out of International Law.” He does not think that this conclusion need be negated by the lack of alternatives to law, but he does go on to acknowledge that, although law cannot fundamentally change power relations, there can be reformist moments.

This last comment brings his position much closer to some of the TWAIL scholars who, while not claiming that developing countries could overturn the entire global order via international law, believe that international law can function at least as a counterhegemonic tool (Rajagopal, 2008). TWAIL scholars at the 2015 Cairo Conference titled “On Praxis and the Intellectual” sought, as an overarching goal, to reconcile international law’s promise of justice with the proliferation of injustice in the world it purports to govern (Nataranjan et al., 2016, p. 1946).

On considering whether international law must necessarily reproduce forms of colonialism, Anghie claims not to be deterministic, although his own argument makes this a “difficult claim to sustain” (Chiam, 2006, p. 207). Falk, Rajagopal, and Stevens (2008, p. 5) reached a more positive conclusion:

[F]rom times past, international law has provided the powerful with a series of instruments by which to exploit and control the weak, and even provided legal cover for colonial rule. With this historical awareness, it is evident that there is no necessary linkage between international law and global justice; indeed, it is more convincing to claim that the historic experience, with some exceptions, most clearly expresses the reinforcing interconnections between law, power, and injustice. But we also believe that international law, as with all law, is a two-edged reality and, with political and moral imagination, can be used advantageously by the weak to resist the plunder and invasions of the strong.

Acknowledgments

Alexandra Walker provided valuable research assistance for the first edition of this article.

The Advisory Centre on WTO Law is an intergovernmental organization that provides legal advice on WTO law, support in WTO dispute settlement proceedings, and training in WTO law to developing and least-developed countries.

Africa Legal Aid is a small pan-African NGO devoted to promoting and protecting individual and collective rights throughout Africa and to challenging the impunity of gross human rights violators. Its headquarters are in Accra, Ghana.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is a coalition of small-island and low-lying coastal countries that share similar development challenges and environmental concerns, especially their vulnerability to the adverse effects of global climate change.

The African Association of International Law (AAIL) was one of the first academic bodies on international law in Africa. It began publication of the African Yearbook of International Law in 1993. After remaining dormant for a certain period, it was reactivated in 2012 to coordinate the establishment of research and study groups on specific themes of relevance to Africa and to promote the teaching of international law in Africa.

The African Foundation for International Law, established in 2003, overtook publishing of the African Yearbook from AAIL. The Foundation aims at promoting study and research of international law with particular reference to Africa. It facilitates debates and exchanges on aspects of international law relevant to the African context.

The Asian African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) serves as an advisory body to 47 states in the field of international law and as a forum for African-Asian co-operation in legal matters of common concern. It communicates, on the behalf of and with consent of member states, the views of the organization on matters of international law referred to it and examines subjects under consideration by the International Law Commission.

The Asian Society of International Law is an NGO that aims to promote research in, education about, and practice of international law by serving as a center of activities among international law scholars and practitioners in Asia and elsewhere; foster and encourage Asian perspectives of international law; and promote awareness of and respect for international law in Asia.

The Chinese Journal of International Law is a general international law journal with a focus on materials and viewpoints from and/or about China, other parts of Asia, and the broader developing world.

The Indian Society of International Law is a national organization that aims, inter alia, to promote the study and development of international law in India.

The Latin American Society of International Law is an organization that promotes and reflects the specific interests and cultural specificity of the region. The main goal of the society is to channel the contribution of Latin American international lawyers to the reflection on and the development of international law in all its branches.

The Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG) is a nonprofit organization, operating as a global pro bono law firm providing free legal assistance to developing states and sub-state entities involved in conflicts.

The United Nations Sustainable Development website is a useful resource for reports and documentation relating to the Post 2015 Global Development Agenda, Rio +20 Conference, Sustainable Development Goals, Small Island Developing States programs, Water for Life, and the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

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