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10 S.Y.B.I.L. 19 (2006)
Power and Justice: Third World Resistance in International Law

handle is hein.journals/singa10 and id is 29 raw text is: © 2006 Singapore Year Book of International Law and Contributors

ARTICLES
POWER AND JUSTICE: THIRD WORLD RESISTANCE IN
INTERNATIONAL LAW
by M. SORNARAJAH*
The new wave of neo-conservative views on international law seems reminiscent of the past of
international law when it was used to justify colonialism and the exploitation of resources of
the areas subject to colonialism. One may observe that there is a greater astuteness in the use
of international law to secure the interests of the powerful than in the past when suppression
through force was considered legitimate. In the modern world, international law has become
the tool by which the objectives of the powerful can be realised. But opposition to such use has
quickly set in and the rules made through power have come to be challenged. Such challenges
are mounted not only by the less powerful states but increasingly by transnationally organised
groups which seek to counter the norms supported by the powerful through the articulation of
norms supported by justice. This tussle is what will shape the future course of international
law. This article surveys areas of international law which have been affected by the tussle and
indicates how outcomes are to be assessed.
I. INTRODUCTION
The end of the Cold War made the Third World seemingly irrelevant in terms of international
relations and international law. During the Cold War, the contest for the Third World
between the superpowers enabled the collective exertion of the power of the states which
had been created through the ending of colonialism, to have an influence in the shaping
of international norms. China, though not a state created through the processes of self-
determination, played a leading role through solidarity with the newly independent states
of Africa and Asia in advancing the causes espoused by these states which, together with the
developing states of Latin America, collectively came to be described as the Third World. In
the heyday of the unity of the Third World, the impact of this cohesion was felt in the shaping
of international norms. These included the principle of self-determination which ended
colonialism,' the doctrine of permanent sovereignty over natural resources2 and a package
of norms referred to as the New International Economic Order.3 Structural inequities in the
international economic system were identified and there was a clamour for their correction.
In the area of international trade, just prices for commodities and preferential access to
*  LLM (Yale) PhD, LLD (London), C.J. Koh Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore.
The literature is vast. See, e.g., Antonio Cassese, Self Determination of Peoples: A Legal Appraisal (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1995); Christian Tomuschat, ed., Modern Law of Self-Determination (The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1993).
2   Nico Schrijver, Sovereignty over Natural Resources: Balancing Rights and Duties (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1997); M. S. Rajan, Sovereignty over Natural Resources (New Jersey: Humanities Press,
1978).
3  Jagdish Bhagwati, ed., The New International Economic Order: The North South Dialogue (Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press, 1977); Mohamed Bedjaoui, Towards a New International Economic Order (New York:
Holmes & Meier, 1979).

(2006) 10 SYBIL 19-57

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