Democracy, Good Governance, and the Rule of Law: Should We Also Want It in the International Arena?

By Manuel F Montes, Senior Advisor on Finance and Development, The South Centre

Invariably, news stories of drone attacks in the northeast part of Pakistan describe these as having occurred in the “lawless” “tribal” region of Waziristan. It was as if the non-legal application of deadly force by a state is particularly justified in an area which is not only tribal, it is even lawless. This essay will explore the phenomenon of “lawlessness” in the international economic system – looking at the particular case of bilateral investment treaties. Who is responsible for the rule of law in the international system? It is natural to think that responsibility would lie with countries and actors with the capacity to enforce. But if the international system is basically lawless, then the “tribe” of the powerful –  in this case, developed country dominated bodies and multinational companies - will be able to interpret the rule of law themselves and cause economic and social costs on developing countries and marginalized populations without consultation, without accountability, and with impunity.

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