The Law of International Institutions

By D. W. Bowett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION

THE development of international organisation has been, in the main, a response to the evident need arising from international intercourse rather than to the philosophical or ideological appeal of the notion of world government. The growth of international intercourse, in the sense of the development of relations between different peoples, was a constant feature of maturing civilisations; advances in the mechanics of communications combined with the desire for trade to produce a degree of intercourse which ultimately called for regulation by institutional means.

The institution of the consul, an official of the State whose essential task was to watch over the interests of the citizens of his State engaged in commerce in a foreign port, was known to the Greeks and the Romans. It survives to this day as one of the less spectacular, but important, institutions of international law. The consul was not, however, concerned with representing his State as such, and for this purpose ambassadors were used, being despatched for the purpose of a specific negotiation. By the fifteenth century this intermittent diplomacy had been replaced in the relations of certain of the Italian States by the institution of a permanent diplomatic ambassador in the capital of the receiving State, and the practice of exchanging ambassadors, complete with staff and embassy premises, is now a normal (albeit not compulsory) feature of relations between States. It is not the purpose of this book to survey the development of consular and diplomatic relations; suffice it to say that in these two institutions can be found the origins of the subsequent and more complex institutions.

Situations soon arose in which the essentially bilateral relationships established by diplomatic embassies or missions were inadequate. For example, a problem would arise which concerned not two but many States, and whether what was proposed was a series of negotiations or even a formal treaty, there had to be found a means for representing the interests of all the States concerned.

The means was the international conference, a gathering of representatives from several States; simply diplomacy writ large. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 emanated from such a conference, as did the

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