Participants in International Legal Relations
Donna E. Arzt and Igor I. Lukashuk
The classical theories of international law in both the United States and the former Soviet Union took for granted that states were and would continue to be the principal subjects of international legal relations. This traditional "Westphalian" conception1 is reflected in the systematic treatises expounding international law in the two countries and in their respective textbooks used for teaching international law.2 The conception is also reflected in the limitation on the contentious jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, and before it the Permanent Court of International Justice, to cases in which the parties are states.
The traditional doctrine came under challenge years ago. It has long been understood that parties other than states can and do exert a great deal of influence on the international legal system. Gradually at least one category of these other parties came to be accepted as a full participant in international legal relations. By the middle of the twentieth century, international organizations came to be treated as subjects of international law for most purposes. It is no longer controversial that international organizations enjoy rights and exercise duties under international law and can enter into treaties with states and with other international organizations.3
Areas of controversy remain, nevertheless. Some of these have been framed in the literature as disputes in which the legal community in the former Soviet Union and the socialist bloc supposedly clung to the traditional state-centered view, while many U.S. and other Western scholars advocated a more inclusive perspective. The characterization of the con