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8. As much as possible should be decided nationally

International law and national law are two different legal systems . There is increasing integration between these systems , but they can also conflict with each other. The question is what is to be decided nationally, what belongs at the international level, and how, and who, is to decide conflicts on these issues. Brexit is an expression of the fact that many Britons believe that the EU has too much power. Similarly, the Norwegian authorities believe that it would go too far if Norway were to join new UN protocols, which give individuals the right to appeal to international bodies for human rights violations.

Sovereignty is an important starting point. In a system of sovereign states, the consent of the states is necessary if they are to assume new obligations under international law. But the principle of subsidiarity (or proximity) can also provide guidance. This principle basically dictates that decisions should be made as locally as possible – that is, at the national level. But also meet as centrally as necessary, if they can be better met internationally. On the one hand: Those who wear the shoe know best where it presses and are best suited to decide what needs to be done. On the other hand, climate measures in individual countries must be supplemented with international regulations – it does not help much if one country goes a long way with climate measures if most others are climate sinkers.

The principle of subsidiarity is reflected in several rules of international law, such as that an offended person must first go to national authorities before the case is taken up in an international court. The European Court of Human Rights applies the principle by allowing national bodies a certain discretion. But it is difficult to imagine the principle applied to basic rules of international law, such as the ban on the use of military force and the ban on torture. In addition, the border should go where subsidiarity threatens the possibility of implementing effective international regulations.

9. Norway has everything to gain from international law

According to smber, small and medium-sized states are served by a world based on law, not power. Norway has benefited greatly from the rules of the law of the sea on the regulation of fishing in the 200-mile economic zones, and the right to oil resources on the continental shelf. We benefit from access to foreign markets through the EEA agreement and the WTO, and from protection against pollution through environmental agreements.

Small countries largely lack the political and economic muscle to put power behind their positions and interests in the event of conflict with larger states. Then it is easier to be able to refer to agreements entered into. Such a system also guarantees more predictability and stability – and thus also works to promote peace .

Norwegian prime ministers are good at emphasizing the fundamental importance of international law . But the practice is more mixed. Norway has actively contributed to the formulation of both the law of the sea and international environmental law; the country has also been a staunch supporter of human rights.

But several of the allied military operations Norway has participated in have had a thin basis under international law. Participation in Kosovo did not have a UN mandate and is highly questionable under international law. The Norwegian authorities were also not very clear about the right to self-defense during the invasion of Afghanistan . The bombing of Libya had a UN mandate, but Norway did not provide any explanation under international law of how the mandate to protect the civilian population from abuse could be used to support the rebel forces in seizing power.

It represents something new that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ legal department prepared a comprehensive investigation under international law before Norway entered with military support for rebel groups in Syria. But will Norway then be co-responsible under international law for the war crimes these groups may commit?

It can thus be a long way between the general statements about the importance of international law, and how Norway relates to international law in practice .

10. The world needs more and better international law

There is still a long way to go to solve the challenges facing the world. This applies to everything from the climate problem to nuclear disarmament, the fight against the world’s poverty problems and the effective protection of human rights. International law is part of the solution. More rules are needed, and more efficient international institutions. But that in itself is not the amount of international law that matters. The important thing is that the international law that is adopted becomes a good enough tool to solve the problems, and that it is perceived as fair. It is also important to clarify how much can be solved at national level , and what needs international solutions .

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