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Global Law: The Spontaneous, Gradual Emergence of a New Legal Order

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This article argues that the debate over whether international law can apply to non-state actors misses the point. The useful distinction is not between rules that regulate the obligations of states and those that regulate the obligations of non-state actors, but rather between rules that regulate the reciprocal obligations of states to each other (international laws) and rules that set global standards that must be obeyed by all entities, state and non-state alike, regardless of national laws and boundaries. This latter category is the emerging phenomenon of global law. Global laws take varying forms, but they all seek to bind the entire globe to a singular global standard—they do not so much cross national boundaries as ignore them. Global law remains inchoate, but is increasing in both scope and coherence. Those seeking to predict the course that global law will take can look to the current example of international commercial arbitration, which is global law par excellence.

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor, Queen’s University Faculty of Law, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Email:, URL:


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