AuthorJohn H. Currie; Craig Forcese; Joanna Harrington; Valerie Oosterveld
As we prepare the third edition of this book, we no longer live in a time of optimism for the
international legal order. The coronavirus pandemic that has killed millions, and infected
hundreds of millions, of people around the world has also wreaked havoc on national econ-
omies through shutdowns, massive job losses, and the closing of borders to both trade
and people. The inability of international institutions like the World Health Organization to
prevent or contain the crisis has bolstered the critics of multilateralism, while a rising tide of
nationalism has enabled populist leaders to withdraw from international cooperation eorts,
including international treaty regimes. Indeed, at times the entire global legal order crafted
in the aftermath of two world wars appears on the brink of unravelling. Multiple strains have
caused a resurgence of stalemates in the United Nations (UN) Security Council, such that
there has been, for example, no eective response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in ,
nor to Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine in . Nor has the council been
able to secure accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, leading to a muted
international response (or even quiet support) for unilateral US airstrikes in April  against
a Syrian military base alleged to have deployed such weapons. Clearly, the election in  of
Donald Trump as president of the United States was signicant for international law, with
new US policies on Iran, Jerusalem, and North Korea increasing the risks of international
confrontation. The Trump presidency also brought about dramatic restrictions on immigra-
tion, the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council and the Paris Agreement on
climate change, and the intentional paralysis of the World Trade Organization’s dispute
settlement process. At the time of writing, only some of these developments show signs of
reversal under the Biden administration. Deep divisions also exist within the United States,
Notably, in the midst of a pandemic of unprecedented impact, the United States lodged its notice
of withdrawal from the World Health Organization with eect on  July : UN Doc C.N...
TREATIES.IX. (Depositary Notication) ( July ). But note that this notice of withdrawal was
itself subsequently withdrawn by the United States: UN Doc C.N...TREATIES.IX. (Depositary
Notication) ( January ).
See, for example, Peter Baker, “Trump Doctrine: Don’t Follow Doctrine” New York Times ( April )
A; but see also Harold Hongju Koh, The Trump Administration and International Law (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, ).
Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,  December ,
Can TS  No , in force  November .
See, for example, US Department of State, Press Statement, “U.S. Decision to Reengage with the
UN Human Rights Council” ( February ) (indicating an intention to “engage with the Council
as an observer” in the immediate term); United States, “Acceptance [of Paris Agreement],” UN Doc
C.N...TREATIES-XXVII..d (Depositary Notication).

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