What is the connection between international law and economic development? The answer will very likely be different according to whether the question is asked in a developed country or in one of the 120 less-developed countries. Consequently the answer can only be found in international law itself.
Criticism has been levelled against the International Law Commission on the ground that its work only deals with the traditional topics which constitute the core of international law. Such criticism implies that the Commission has failed to perceive the need for developing international law adequately to encompass new areas.
Of course this assertion could be disputed. However, the General Secretary of the United Nations, in a Survey of International Law published in April, 1971, clearly points to a number of newly emerging areas of concern, including the law relating to economic development which comprises the following headings:
1. international legal rules and measures concerning regulation and coordination of the economic activities of states;
2. international trade;
3. economic and technical assistance.
In order to assess the full implication of this question, it should be appreciated that the activities of the U.N. and of a growing number of international economic institutions are now devoted increasingly to development. The numerous relevant publications issued especially, but not only, by Third World lawyers show how this matter is becoming of fundamental importance. Indeed, there can be little doubt that Foreign Office legal advisers would readily admit that much of their daily work involves questions of international economic law. Nevertheless, if one looks at the role allocated to this subject by what may loosely be called the established international law, one must recognise that this is, indeed, a very modest role.