Fundamental Values and International Law

Esil Conference 2017 > Theme > Fundamental Values and International Law

What are the fundamental values of the international community? Where do these fundamental values come from? What function do fundamental values serve in international and domestic legal argumentation? These questions have formed part of long-standing debates in international law, which resort to a multiplicity of different traditions. Some define fundamental values with respect to their utility in maintaining orderly and peaceful international relations. Others turn to fundamental values which are said to be intrinsic or inherent, such as human rights. Yet others ask whether other values such as human dignity, democracy or the international rule of law should be counted as being fundamental to the international legal order. The source from which fundamental values stem is also controversial. Whilst some point to the consent or export of fundamental values from constitutional systems, others highlight the importance of non-consensual forms of reasoning. Finally, the function of fundamental values is underdetermined in international law. Do fundamental values operate as constitutional principles through which all international law must be interpreted? Are all fundamental values ius cogens norms? What kinds of duties do fundamental values generate?

This forum will examine both the theoretical and practical dimensions of the identification and function of fundamental values in international law. Contributions can explore what count as fundamental values, the purpose served by fundamental values in the international legal order, the processes of identification of fundamental values, the interaction between national and international law in the definition and protection of fundamental values, the role of the international and national judiciary in the specification of fundamental values, or the relationship between different fundamental values in the international legal.



Samantha Besson, University of Fribourg


Carlos Esposito, Autónoma University of Madrid

Mattias Kumm, Humboldt University of Berlin

Gerry Simpson, London School of Economics and Political Science