AuthorJohn H. Currie, Craig Forcese, Joanna Harrington, Valerie Oosterveld
From all appearances, the early twenty-f‌irst century is a time of uncertainty for the world
legal order. Since the publication of the f‌irst edition of this book, the f‌ields of international
law and international relations have been wracked by political upheavals and appalling lev-
els of violence against civilians; a global f‌inancial crisis in 2008; a global pandemic in 2009;
and environmental disasters such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. The Arab Spring
movement has led to tumultuous changes in governments, while natural disasters, such
as cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008 or the massive earthquakes in Haiti, New Zealand,
and Japan in 2010 and 2011, have placed new pressures on international law to f acilitate
inter-state cooperation in times of humanitarian crisis. World trade talks continue to stall,
with some governments hoping to stimulate their economies either through protectionist
measures or the conclusion of regional agreements, such as a desired Trans-Pacif‌ic Part-
nership or trans-Atlantic trade deals with an expanding European Union. While the growth
of the Internet and social media has led to new means of providing support for social
change, governments also face greater risks of information insecurity, as demonstrated
in 2010 by the WikiLeaks release of hundreds of conf‌idential US State Department cables.
China’s rise as a result of huge economic growth is also having an impact on world affairs,
as is the growing inf‌luence of emerging leaders such as Brazil, India, and South Africa, but
regional conf‌licts, including China’s disputes with its neighbours in the East China and
South China Seas, are heightening geopolitical insecurity. Nuclear insecurity is another
contributing factor, while legal insecurity also exists, with questions arising as to whether
current law is adequate to address the use of drones and new methods of cyberwarfare.
The at tacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11) also continue to have an impact on both
international law and international relations. Measured against the heady optimism that
immediately followed the Cold War, international relations in the post-9/11 era have ap-
peared tumultuous, divisive, and ominous. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, unsettling
new views on the exercise of hard power in foreign af fairs gained sway, prompting some
democratic states to embrace a doctrine of “pre-emptive self-defence” and the illegal
resort to force in places like Iraq. Memoranda from government off‌icials pushed the en-
velope in efforts to defend torture as a practice legitimated by the shadow y “war against
terror.” Attempts were also made to distort the provisions of the widely respected Geneva
Conventions in order to consign unknown numbers of individuals, through rendition, to
black holes into which no credible legal light was permitted to penetrate.
Meanwhile, older problems have assumed ominous new forms. Terrorists now de-
stroy themselves to destroy others. Reports of nuclear ambitions in Iran, nuclear weapons

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