GoJIL Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010)
Dying a Thousand Deaths: Recurring Emergencies and Exceptional Measures in International Law
Crises, while unforeseen and exceptional, appear with some regularity. Crisis management is not exceptional, but a recurring task. This paper studies the impact of international law on how international crises are handled and the room allowed for emergency measures within international legal discourses. It outlines the relationship between an extra-legal exceptionalist perspective, where law is considered an obstacle to emergency measures, and a more constitutionalist one, where exceptional measures are included within the legal paradigms. Examples are drawn from two contemporary crises: the global financial crisis, with particular reference to Iceland and the Icesave dispute, and the treatment of global epidemics and its effect on trade, with particular reference to the pandemic swine influenza A (H1N1). It is suggested that many factors seem to influence the choice of perspective: inter alia previous deviations in similar situations and the institutional solidity of the legal environment of the rule in question. The role for international law in crisis may increase through soft law guidance and persuasive advice from credible organisations that may assess the gravity of the situation and suggest alternative courses of action within the ambit of law.
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