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International law in intrastate conflict resolution


The behavior of parties in conflicts and the peace agreements they conclude take place within the framework of international law. When the parties are states, those agreements become part of international law and the parties’ behavior also impact the body of state practice that shapes customary international law. Although perhaps less obvious, actors in intrastate conflicts—conflicts within states—are also obligated to comply with international law and intrastate peace agreements similarly impact it. In what we refer to here as the international law of intrastate relations, state and non-state actors are bound by a wide range of rules and norms of international law. The international community does not always hold them to these requirements, perhaps giving precedence to the principle of non-interference in other states’ ‘internal affairs’. This project looks at the responsibility of the international community in respect to intrastate conflicts and peace processes where, and to the extent, international law does apply, as well as at ways to encourage states’ compliance with their legal obligations in this regard.

Although international law primarily regulates relations among states, it also increasingly governs aspects of intrastate relations—the most obvious having to do with human rights and with self-determination of peoples—and it may have a bearing on conflicts within states and on their resolution. How can the international community usefully engage with conflicting parties or sanction them on matters relating to their international legal obligations? And when are states required to act in the event of a breach of international law of this kind? How can such international involvement be helpful in sustainably resolving intrastate conflicts? These are some of the questions we will be exploring with a view to promoting a climate conducive to sustainable conflict resolution, one buttressed by greater respect for the principles and norms of international law.

For a discussion of evolving international law of intrastate relations and the shift from state sovereignty as a right and privilege to a responsibility, see THE MISSING PEACE: International Law of Intrastate Relations, Keynote Address by Kreddha’s founder and executive president Michael van Walt at the 23rd Annual Fulbright Symposium on International Legal Problems, GGU, San Francisco, by clicking here.

Michael van Walt organized an international seminar on the developing principle of the Responsibility to Protect and invited the Rt. Hon. Gareth Evans, Co-Chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty and former Foreign Minister of Australia, to give a public lecture on the subject in March 2014. Click here for the text of the lecture by Professor Evans, After Syria: The Future of the Responsibility to Protect.