Humanity’s voice of reason: International Law and the United Nations Charter


I watched a great movie this afternoon, The Interpreter, with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. While it was an action thriller, it also had a deeper message. The United Nations represents the idea of solving differences through reasoned discussions. The alternative is violence and war.

Reflecting on the last four centuries of war, which kicked off in 1618 with a European “world war (the Thirty Years’ War), it becomes clear that the voice of reason, the voice of humanity’s wisdom, has been expressed in the develoment of International Law and, since 1945, the United Nations Charter.

The princples and norms of international law have developed through custom, and through treaties and other agreements among the many nations of the world. Such treaties are the product of what are often long and drawn-out discussions based in large part on reasoned argument.

If you step back a little, you can understand that international law, including the U.N. Charter, is the expression of humanity’s voice of reason. If you examine the principles and norms, you will see that they embody enormous wisdom and good sense, borne of harsh experience.

If they do not solve all problems, because of the political realities in which they were created or exist today, at least they set clear goals toward which humanity should continue to strive.

Go read the U.N. Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They express the voice of reason of humanity.

They represent norms and goals which every nation should observe and strive to implement.

The alternative, as the framers of the U.N. Charter well understood, is endless violence and war.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.