Jeffrey Ordaniel

In the 21st Century international order, state actors, including great powers, rationalize their behavior through legal rules and accepted norms of diplomacy. Be it unilateral assertions of power, however counter-intuitive that may sound, or willingness to cooperate with others to address a pressing international concern, international law is often the basis through which states conduct foreign relations. But international law is important because it produces global public goods, such as maritime safety and security, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the stability of the global financial system, among others. In essence, through international law, peace is maintained, inter-state cooperation can be deepened, and global prosperity is advanced. However, the notion of a more rules-based international order as the ultimate goal of contemporary international relations is being increasingly challenged. The rise of China, which has been resulting in the most consequential redistribution of wealth and power in modern history, has introduced new peculiarities in the conduct of interstate affairs, those that downplay the role of law and regionally distort existing international legal instruments. Take for instance the international maritime regime, the stability of which is critical to the global economy. Though the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea seemed to have stabilized global maritime interactions, the age-old concepts of mare liberum and mare clausum in the West seemed to have been resurrected in Asia’s maritime commons. These new peculiarities mean that smaller states like the Philippines become vulnerable to the whims of other more powerful states. This presentation will discuss how smaller powers, like the Philippines, should put the rule of law front and center in the conduct of their foreign policy.