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“You Will Always Have the Poor”: A Reflection on the Paradox of Justice as Law

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image of International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

Calls for, and arguments around, fairness and justice are an essential element of international law; more so in certain areas – environment and natural resources, development – than in others, namely, the structural design of the discipline, State responsibility, formation of custom and acquisition of territory. The article thus considers the question whether there is an obligation of fair entitlement in international law, with particular reference to various matters of territory. With reflections on the discrete questions of territorial loss through sea-level rise and the role of equity in maritime delimitation, the article considers the role of fairness and justice in international law. The article concludes nevertheless that though fairness is an important and emotive value to strive for within legal and political discourse, it can become a dangerous entitlement when it trumps or usurps established rules of international law.

Affiliations: 1: Head, and Professor of Law, Lincoln Law School, Lincoln, UK,


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