We live in a shrinking world where interdependence between countries and communities is increasing. These changes also affect – as they should – the concept of sovereignty. Unlike the conception of sovereignty that predominated in past decades of the ownership of a large estate separated from other properties by rivers or deserts, today’s reality is more analogous to the ownership of a small apartment in one densely packed high-rise in which about two hundred families live.
In our global apartment building, several pressing questions emerge: Do states, when they exercise their domestic regulatory functions, have an obligation to take into account the interests of foreign individuals and communities who could be adversely affected? Should national legislators and government agencies integrate foreign stakeholders into their decision-making processes? Must states share with strangers their scarce national resources and in general contribute to global welfare? These are some of the key questions that the project “Sovereigns as Trustees of Humanity: The Obligations of Nations in an Era of Global interdependence” (GlobalTrust) sets out to explore. This project is informed by the observation that when setting national policies, states routinely affect foreigners in faraway countries often without providing them with adequate opportunities to participate in shaping those policies.
The project, funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant (2013-2018), will approach these questions from several angles and disciplines (including history, political philosophy and political science in addition to constitutional and international law), and will explore questions such as:
• The possible moral and legal grounds for requiring states to take into account and accommodate the interests of individuals and communities in other countries.
• The genealogy of the concept of sovereignty as entailing obligations toward others (derived from notions such as common humanity, society of states, international community, etc.).
• The possible institutional mechanisms (such as international and national courts) that could legitimize the external monitoring and review of states’ compliance with such other-regarding obligations.
• Specific assessment of the obligations that states owe to foreigners abroad in different areas of international and constitutional law (e.g., human rights law, international humanitarian law, investment and trade law, environmental law, etc.).