By Anne Marie Slaughter
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In practical terms, what this informality means is, crucially, that individual government institutions cannot be subjected to specific obligations or duties under international law. Nor can they exercise specific rights. Sovereignty is possessed by the state as a whole, not by its component parts. For example, the courts that are attempting to develop a specific conception of judicial comity, as described in chapter 2, are adapting a doctrine that has traditionally applied to states as a whole to the specific needs of transjudicial relations.
33 This concept of sovereignty as participation, or status, means that disaggregated sovereignty would empower government institutions around the world to engage with each other in networks that would strengthen them and improve their ability to perform their designated government tasks individually and collectively. In the process, they could help rebuild states ravaged by conflict, weakened by poverty, disease, and privatization, or stalled in a transition from dictatorship to democracy. If transgovernmental organizations of judges, regulators, or legislators had formal status at the level of international law, they could adopt formal membership criteria and standards of conduct that would create many more pressure points for the global community to act upon a wayward state, but also many more INTRODUCTION 35 incentives and sources of support for national government officials aspiring to be full members of the global community yet so often lacking capacity or political and material reinforcement in the domestic struggle against corruption or the arbitrary and often concentrated use of power.
The official observers of the international scene—scholars, pundits, policymakers—cannot fully see and appreciate this phenomenon because they are handicapped by the conceptual lenses of the unitary state. Although they are accustomed to thinking of “governments” domestically—as complex conglomerates of different institutions responsible for different governance functions—they think of “states” internationally. These are purportedly unitary actors represented by the head of state and the foreign minister, represented in other countries and international organizations by professional diplomats.
A New World Order by Anne Marie Slaughter