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Pax Orbis: A Law for the World


by Brian Risman, Publisher and Founder, The Law Journal UK and Consultant in International Law


The division of the world into multilateral and unilateral camps cannot continue. Neither camp can succeed on its own -- and both must replace their ideology with a Pax Orbis, a Rule of Law for the World based on the long dormant Article 43 of the United Nations Charter.


The late former Prime Minister of Canada Lester B. Pearson, stated in his 1957 Nobel Peace Prize speech, that cultures were essentially island ecologies that were being forced by history to negotiate togetherness -- and all the problems of the coming years would be about this new condition. He quoted British historian Arnold Toynbee, saying that the twentieth century won’t be remembered as an era of political conflict or technical invention, but rather as an age in which we dared to imagine the welfare of the human race as a practical objective.


In the spirit of Mr. Pearson, the creator of UN peacekeeping, the theme of this article is that the multilateral – and unilateral -- approaches to public international law are each sustained by cultures – island ecologies -- that share a common focus. Multilateral nations share one focus, that of joint participation in improving the state of humanity. Unilateral nations share a different focus, namely that of ensuring the stability of the world order by use of power. Both approaches have their validity; both approaches have their weaknesses. Each side feels that their focus is essential for the world, and that the focus of the other side is unrealistic and even dangerous.


The key problem in public international law today is that the focus of the multilateral, and that of the unilateral, tend to conflict in terms of world priorities. Yet until this conflict is bridged, neither side will achieve their goal. The multilateral camp needs to realise that you cannot better the lot of humanity without a world order sustained by power; and the unilateral camp will need to see that you cannot sustain a world order based on power, without significant improvement in the lot of humanity.


What all nations need to do, then, is promote bridging across their respective multilateral and unilateral camps. We need to combine the self-interest, and the need for interdependency into an interdependent self-interest.


We need a Pax Orbis – a new language for international law, independent of partisan and political considerations. The Pax Orbis would involve the implementation of the long dormant Article 43 of the UN Charter regarding a standing UN force. In the manner of a Pax Britannia or a Pax Americana, where one nation imposes the order for the world, the Pax Orbis would be the rule of law and social ethos agreed by the world, and ordered by the world.  However, the Pax Orbis would also need to deal with a constantly evolving and diverse world environment – such as the rise of warlords and theft of aid in failed states.


The need for implementation of Article 43 of the UN Charter is clear. Nations ignored it in the days before peacekeeping; now peacekeeping is the norm for many countries.


We need to go that extra step of commitment – a standing, apolitical UN police force to establish and enforce a Pax Orbis.


Several hundred years ago, United Nations Peacekeeping – indeed, a United Nations itself – was inconceivable.


Yet we have it today, since the language of international law changed.


We need a further change in that international language to bring about a Pax Orbis.


In most countries, city councils do not have to beg people to join an ad hoc police force to deal with killings as they occur. Yet internationally, the United Nations Security Council has to beg countries to join peacekeeping forces on an ad hoc basis to deal with mass killings in progress – if the Security Council can move beyond political wranglings and non-action.


Yet we also need a humanitarian side to the Pax Orbis – one that benefits all of humanity.


We need to realise this need to merge camps and create the Pax Orbis -- to act as the catalyst and vanguard for the bridging – and growth – towards the new view.


We should point the direction that will allow both sides to realise their goals, and truly pull the world together for the first time in human existence.


And what a change that would be.



Brian Risman, Publisher and Founder, The Law Journal UK and Consultant in International Law


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