Developments associated with globalization challenge the way we think about sovereignty, rights, legitimacy, and international law. We have been told for quite some time that state sovereignty is being undermined. The transnational character of risks from ecological problems, economic interdependence, burgeoning illegal immigration, and terrorism, highlight the apparent loss of control by the state over its territory, borders, population, and the dangers its citizens face. The proliferation of new threats to peace and security seem increasingly to come from civil wars, failing states, grave domestic human rights violations, and the risk that private actors will acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Today belligerency and violent aggression requiring international regulation appears to be caused by anarchy and tyranny within states rather than anarchy between them. Global governance and global law seem to be the necessary response to the problems generated by but not resolvable within the old framework of an anarchical international society of sovereign states.
Indeed, key political and legal decisions are being made beyond the purview of national legislatures. Alongside other globalizing systems, we seem to be witnessing the emergence of a global political system in which multiple supranational actors bypass the state in the generation of hard and soft law. The apparent decoupling of law from the territorial state and the proliferation of new, non-state transnational and supranational legal orders and sources of law suggest that the former has lost legal as well as political sovereignty. The general claim is that the world is witnessing a move to global (for some, cosmopolitan) law, which we will not perceive or be able to influence adequately if we do not abandon the discourse of sovereignty. Apparently a new world order is emerging, in which global law based on consensus is, in key domains, replacing international law based on state consent. In the twenty-first century, the very category “international” appears outdated.