International Law

International law includes the legal principles and law about the relationships between nations.  The law of nations, another name for international law, now includes relations between states and individuals and relations with international organizations.  Private international law concerns disputes between private persons involving matters having significant relation to more than one nation.

Customs, treaties, and conventional law form the basis of international law.  Customary international law means practices generally and consistently followed by nations with a sense of legal obligation.  The law of nations is often accepted as law in the United States unless it conflicts with a statute or treaty to the contrary.

The premier international organization concerned with international law is the United Nations (UN) with headquarters along the East River in New York City.  The United Nations was organized on October 24, 1945, at the end of World War II.  The basic purposes of the UN are to maintain peace and security, and develop friendly relations among nations.  The International Court of Justice was created by the UN charter.

Article 13 of the UN charter directs the UN General Assembly to make studies and recommendations to encourage development of international law and its codification.  Nearly every independent nation in the world is a member of the UN.  There are now 192 members.  The members meet in the General Assembly, which is the closest thing we have to a world parliament.  The senior officer of the UN is the Secretary-General.

Other important international organizations, created in accord with international law, include the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, World Trade Organization, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.


  1.  Anthony C. Arend and Robert J. Beck, International Law and the Use of Force:  Beyond the UN charter Paradigm (1993).
  2. L.C. Green, The Contemporary Law of Armed Conflict (2nd ed. 2000).
  3. Martin Glassner, Bibliography on Land Locked States, Economic Development and International Law (2000).