International law

This article is written by Shivani Nair, from Manipal University Jaipur. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the topic of the current global issues in International law in the last 5 years, along with the reforms to overcome those issues.


Among the best accomplishments of the United Nations, is the development of a body called the International law, which is vital to advancing monetary and social turn of events, just as to propelling global harmony and security. The International law is revered in conventions, arrangements called treaties and standards. Most of the treaties brought about by the United Nations structure the premise of the law that administers relations among countries. While the work done by the UN right now does not generally get consideration, it daily affects the lives of individuals all over the place. Therefore, it is pertinent to know that International law plays an important role in an individual’s life despite not being directly a part of it.

Current and global issues in International law in the last 5 years 

There have been a vast number of issues that have been in the limelight in the field of International Law. As the United Nations stands alone to be a truly global organization, it has dealt with various issues at hand that go beyond one’s national boundaries and cannot be solved by the individual countries that act alone in the time of crisis. Initially, the United Nations was more focussed on stimulating and safeguarding peace, while encouraging and securing human rights, establishing the basis and the framework for international justice and foster social and economic progress worldwide. However, after the seven decades of its establishment, it has now progressed to solving new problems at hand, which are the current global crisis adding to a set of new challenges, such as climate change, humanitarian issues, overpopulation, etc. We will be looking at some of the issues at hand which are listed below:

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Climate change

Climate change is an important issue at hand, and human beings are currently at a very defining moment because of this. It is important to consider this because, from shifting and the changes in the weather pattern, to the changes in the productivity of the food, to the animals being extinct due to the increased amount of global warming, to the rise in the sea level leading to mass flooding, this has led to the world coming to a catastrophe. Without bringing about changes and acting on such issues, at hand, quickly, one cannot control this without causing more harm to nature in the future. Not only that, but the effect of climate change and the cost to save the environment increases each day with the passage of time, as more and more catastrophes take place. 

One of the most important reasons for the change in climate is the imprint of human beings on the greenhouse gases. This means that human beings have been active participants in increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the world. 

Greenhouse gases have essentially been important in case of survival of human beings, animals, plants and other creatures alike, but they have always occurred naturally, by trapping the rays of the sun, inside the blanket of the ozone layer to make the Earth a place, fit for living beings to survive. But, after rigorous deforestation, industrialization, large-scale agriculture, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has risen to an alarming level and at a startling rate. As the population grows, the standard of living grows too, leading to the rise in the cumulative level of greenhouse gas (hereinafter known as the GHGs) emissions. 

An organization called “The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change”, (hereinafter known as the IPCC) to provide a source, which was objective, in the scientific information. In the year 2013, the IPCC had provided information and scientific linkage of the human beings to the mass emissions of the greenhouse gases being the lead cause responsible for climate change, as mentioned in its Fifth Assessment Report. The report had stated just a simple thing and that was, that climate change was real, and human beings were responsible for this. Apart from establishing and providing evidence with regards to increasing sea level the report further discussed the various causes behind it. It had also stated that there was a significant rise in the Carbon Dioxide level in recent years and that it had greatly increased after the industrialisation. The IPCC had also submitted a Special Report in the year 2018, stating the impacts of global warming around the world. There was already an alarming rate at which the Amazon forests, the rivers were being dried up, the arctic tundra was melting and the polar bears were getting malnourished after thousands of years of its existence. After the forest fire in the Amazon, the fire in Australia, and the immediate destruction of nature, it has been evident that if not acted upon carefully and quickly, the species on earth might go extinct at a very alarming rate. Therefore, making it impossible to save nature and its species before it is too late. 

Thus, it is important to note that climate change is one of the most important issues at hand, which is capable of causing mass destruction to the life of every species on the earth. Ironically, by the hands of human beings, who are known to be the smartest of the creatures on this planet. 

Humanitarian issues- Conflict in Syria

Another issue which falls within the ambit of International law is the humanitarian issue. Among the worst affected countries on the grounds of humanity, is Syria. The conflict in Syria has created one of the worst and sadistic forms of the humanitarian crisis in the entire world. More than half of the population of Syria, an estimated figure of 12 million people have been forced to flee or have been forced to leave their homes, or have been killed in their own country. The people who are still alive are either forced to go to the neighbouring countries or are forced to live as refugees in their own country. There has been so much struggle by the families to adjust themselves as refugees in their neighbouring countries, making it difficult for them to survive. A few of them even flew to the European countries in the hopes of being accepted by these countries. What awaits them is the threat of global pandemic- the COVID-19, making the Syrian crisis even more gruesome. According to the United Nations, the help required by the Syrians had been an estimated cost of 3.2 Billion USD, in the year 2019, but only half of it had been received to help the Syrians. This leads to multiple questions that need to be answered:

When Did the Crisis in Syria Begin?

The crisis in Syria began with the peaceful protests that had emerged in the month of March in the year 2011, against the Syrian Government. This was a part of the Arab Spring protest. The quick escalation from peaceful protests to violence took place when the government broke down and the opposition started their own fight against the civilians. But by the month of July, an Army had been formed called the Free Syrian Army, which had led to the civilians joining this army as a mark of protest, in turn, leading them to join with arms to fight for the opposition. The matter escalated, even more, when there was tension amongst various groups in Syria such as the tension between the secular groups and the ones who believed in a particular religious ideology, or, the tension between different ethnic groups, which further complicated the already complicated situation. 

Current scenario of Syria

The current scenario of Syria is such that, more than a million people had to flee the country after an escalation in the violence of the Idlib and the Western Aleppo provinces. But in the light of the COVID-19 situation, this has only added fire to the injury, which the Syrians were facing for many years. The Syrians who were caught in the midst of the pandemic as well as the war, have a terrible life at the moment, and the increasing amount of the death of the people has not settled yet. Cities that were once crowded and used to project happiness and liveliness amongst the people, have now been deserted and are shattered. They have been destroyed completely. Human rights have been violated in a gruesome manner, and the basic necessities which the Syrians require such as food, or shelter, or medical assistance is so scarce, that the people are dying of hunger and poverty. Millions of people have been internally displaced and millions are in urgent need of humanitarian help. 

The situation of Syria went from bad to worse, after the outside forces came into existence, uprooting them from their own country. 

Where did the Syrians go?

Most of the Syrians flee from their countries to the neighbouring countries, while a few others flee to the European countries. Many of the Syrian refugees have started dwelling in countries like Lebanon and Jordan. A few of them also tried to escape to Northern Iraq but that has only led them to be stuck in the internal conflicts of Iraq. 

With this, the struggle of the Syrians grows, and the added pandemic only makes them even more vulnerable than they originally were. This leads to another issue of their safeguard during the crisis such as the coronavirus COVID-19. One must note that this crisis has only added on to the dangers the Syrian refugees had already been facing.


A third issue that is pertinent in the field of International law is the over-population and the issues related to overpopulation. 

During the year 1950, the population had been around an estimated figure of 2 Billion people. It had reached an estimated figure of about 6 billion in the year 2000 and had increased to an estimated figure of about 7 billion right now, with an estimated increase of 9.2 billion in the year 2050. That is a huge crisis, considering the shortage of resources to all of mankind. This dramatic growth has been due to the large increase in the number of people who are surviving the reproductive age and has been followed by the major and the drastic changes in fertility rates, the increased amount of urbanisation, and an acceleration in the migration. These trends will now have everlasting implications for the future generations to come. 

Who are the most populated countries in the world?

The most populated countries in the world are China and India. This means that more than half of the population of the world lives in the continent of Asia, with China and India contributing to the world population with more than a billion people each. Where India has been predicted to overtake China in population growth as the world’s most populous country, while China’s population has been projected to decrease by an estimated amount of 34 million between 2019 to 2050. 

The world is estimated to reach a population of 11 Billion by the end of 2100. However, there is still a scope of lacuna and that these projections have not entirely been true to its mark and thus, there is a chance that there might be fluctuations in the numbers of the estimated population in the countries. The fluctuations are a result of the decrease in the fertility rate of the people who are still members of the large families. However, the increase in the fertility rate can take place in the families where the people belong to a nuclear family, with countries with children who are two in number or less than two in number. The prospects of survival are also projected to increase in the upcoming years.
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Which is the Fastest Growing continent right now? 

The fastest-growing continent in recent years is the continent of Africa. It is estimated that there shall be a surge in the population growth of the African countries leading it to be the major area of growth. The sub-Saharan population is also estimated to grow by the year 2050 into double the amount it is right now. However, it has been predicted that there shall be a rapid increase in the African population even though there might be chances of the reduction in the fertility rate, despite which, it may turn out to be one of the most populated continents across the globe. This is due to the fact that there are more of the youth population in sub-Saharan Africa. This means that most of the fertile people are amongst the current generation of the population in the world. Also, the region has been playing an important role in the distribution of the population. 

But it has been estimated that, in contradiction to the African continent, the continent of Europe shall witness an increasing amount of deduction in the population of their country, mostly due to the people belonging to the old age. 

A few countries are also predicted to witness a decrease in the amount of the population by an estimated margin of 15%. These countries include Bulgaria, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Hungary, Croatia, Latvia, Japan, Republic of Moldova, Lithuania, Serbia, Romania and Ukraine.

Factors influencing Population Growth

There are many reasons by which there is a surge in the growth of the population of the country. A few of them are listed below:

  • Fertility rates

The population increase or decrease of any country entirely depends upon the fertility rate of that country’s citizens. If the citizens of the country are more fertile, enough to reproduce, they may assist in the increase of the population. 

  • Longevity increase

Due to the significant increase in the lifespan of human beings, because of medical assistance or any other means of developing immunity, it plays an important part in the growth of the population at large. 

  • International migration

Even though it is significantly lesser than the other two, it plays an important role in the countries where the number of economic migrants sent or received is more in number and those countries which are affected by the refugee flows. 

The issues such as urbanisation, world migration growth, marriage, fertility, etc., come into play when there is overpopulation. Everything is interconnected and with the increase in population, the world has seen a significant consumption of resources leading to the scarcity of resources for the future generation. 

One must understand that it is important to have a sustainable living condition and that the importance of the living conditions is only a luxury for those who are able to afford it. Without sustainable living, we cannot achieve our aim of having a healthy and a brighter future for our successors. 

War crimes

If we speak broadly, the war crimes means and includes, all those kinds of crimes, that go against the International Law, in relation to the ones which are termed as ‘armed conflict’ for which the individuals may be punished after their prosecution, including crimes against peace, crimes that are termed as ‘genocide’ and crimes that threaten the humanity. In a much narrower sense, war crimes are merely crimes that go against international law and the customs of the war. The definition of the term “War Crime” has been written in Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

How did war crimes come into existence?

Even though this has termed to be many centuries old, it can be stated that it had caught up to its recent development in the 19th century leading to the beginning of the 20th century, when the codification of the International Humanitarian Law which is also known as the Law of Armed Conflict came into existence. Many treaties and many conventions such as the Hague law and the Geneva Conventions had come into place. This led to multiple war crimes as now, it had been a punishable offence. But unfortunately, there has never been a document that has noted all the war crimes that had taken place since the formation of the law. 

Additionally, many rules of such international law apply to those armed conflicts which are international and non-international. 

What falls under Prohibited Acts?

Some of the examples that could be termed as prohibited acts include-

  • Murder
  • Mutilation of limbs and other body parts
  • Taking hostages
  • Cruel treatment ad torture
  • Directing attacks against the civilians of a country intentionally
  • Pillaging
  • Directing attacks intentionally towards buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, charitable purposes, historical monuments, science, or hospitals.
  • Sexual slavery
  • Rape
  • Forced pregnancy
  • Sexual violence
  • Forcing children below the age of 15 into armed violence or using them to participate in hostility. 

Elements of the Crime

For any war crime to take place, there are generally two elements that one must keep in their minds. These are:

  • The contextual Element, also known as the Actus Reus- in this case, the conduct that took place must be a part of an international or a non-international armed conflict.
  • The mental Element, also known as the Mens Rea- in this case, there must be intention as well as the knowledge that one is about to commit the crime of the contextual element.

War crimes can be committed against a variety and diversity of individuals depending upon the type of crime. The international war crimes include the members of the Armed Forces wounded at the sea or at the field they were made to combat at. The non-international crimes include non-active participation in such hostilities. 

War crimes in the modern era have played a significant role in the disruption of international peace. 

Global terrorism

Terrorism in a broader sense means an act that is generally violent and intimidating against the civilians generally, in the pursuit of the political aims or claims. The world today is still a dangerous place to live in. 

However, as we go through this, even though it is a very big issue at hand, it is important to note that the rate of deaths due to global terrorism has fallen since its peak in 2014. This is due to the fact that the military has been able to combat itself against the groups of ISIL and Boko Haram. The country with the largest fall has been Iran with this country no longer being the most terror-stricken country of the world with its rate falling as much as 75% in the year 2018, much less than it was first declared to have terror-stricken deaths in the year 2003. 

Impact of Global Terrorism

It has termed to be a paradox that although the deaths caused by terrorism is much less than many other causes of crimes, and that the possibility of any person being killed by a terrorist is not much, as compared to other crimes, we have faced it to be an issue, that is deeply thought-provoking, merely because of the way terrorists acts.

Firstly, the very thoughts of terrorism provokes a great sense of insecurity and fear amongst the minds of the people. The terrorists often play their cards while capturing the general civilians, often at random. Thus, the very thought of being captured without any warning makes us defenceless against the terrorists and this does not appeal well to us. 

Terrorists have often used intimidation as a weapon to combat the minds of the general public and have more often than not, succeeded in doing so. The fear in the eyes of the people has led to the terrorists gaining an upper hand as they project that the country’s government has not been able to protect its citizens and that they would be unable to, either. 

Terrorism is often used to propagate religious agenda or that it is used to express rage and protest against the unmet claims and aims of such groups who resort to terrorism. 

Despite the fact that terrorism has failed to be a strategic weapon of warfare, it is important to note that terrorism has indeed disrupted the interest of many countries alike. Such as the Israel-Palestinian war that has been going on for decades and the fact that too much o money is involved while combating terrorism itself suggests the idea that it causes a hole in the pockets of the government while leading to battle the issues. 

Therefore, terrorism has been nothing, but a way to impose ideology, that has been misled by a group of armed protestors, thereby, causing disruption in the peace of the country. 

Reforms and suggestions

There are a number of reforms and suggestions that one must take while combating the global issues in International Law. They could be categorised as:

  • While dealing with the issue of climate change, one must note that there have been studies to show that many improvements can be brought about if the global warming could be limited to 1.5 degree increase rather than the 2 degree increase as it would not only make the planet Earth sustainable for living conditions but also the fact that it might reduce the depletion of the ozone layer and that protection of the nature is also possible. This would also require everything, i.e., the industry, the household, the urban areas, the work areas, the rural areas, etc., to come at a significant halt and that would require balancing out the amount of energy consumption which would reduce the Carbon Dioxide emission. 
  • In the case of the Syrian refugees, one can help in the support of the Syrian refugees in joining organisations that work for their protection and help them in combating the threats they face. Regardless of the area, one belongs to, it is important to know that humanity comes above all and everything. One must find ways and organisations, which are not just the governmental but also the non-governmental to deal with the issues. The basic necessities such as the sanitization, drinking water facilities, the food, the shelter, the clothing, all of which belong to the basic needs of Maslow’s hierarchy, are the ones that must be provided to them. Above anything else, it is the humans that would be able to help other human beings. 
  • While combating the issue of overpopulation, we can note that there are many measures that one can follow. The government shall be directed to make laws that help in combating such issues. But it is not just the duty of the government to make laws, but also, the fact that citizens of every country must have their own intellect and must be imparted with an education that makes one aware of the necessities and importance of having a nuclear family rather than a large joint family. 
  • The issue of war crimes can only be dealt with the proper implementation of the laws and with the amendment of the pre-existing laws, making it stricter and making the offender liable for a stricter penal punishment. The issues of war crimes must not be dealt with lightly. The responsibility of the protection of the people lies within the hands of the sovereign and that a series of steps must be taken in order to prevent such crimes. 
  • The issue of global terrorism can only be combatted when there are ways to measure the impact of such terrorism. Most of them involve research methodology, military forces which are active and strong counter-terrorism technology. Refusing to fulfill the needs of the terrorists and making no concession to them, adds on to the advantage of their needs not being fulfilled and finding and discovering their weak spots. It is an unmitigated crime, whatever their reason for the crime may be. Therefore, one must never conform to their demands as it will only increase their demands for more political obligations. 


The essence in dealing with the issues of the globe, pertinent to the international laws, have actually been a tedious task over the years. However, in the last five years, all these issues at hand, are being brought under the control and under the radar, in order to prevent any kind of disruption in the world. Therefore, there has always been an active check on the activities of the world, and tried to control them to prevent any more catastrophe. 


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