Community Interest and the International Public Legal Order

Sarah Thin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Traditional ideas about the private nature of the international legal order are increasingly being forced to contend with the development of public legal elements at the international level. The notion of the international community interest is key to understanding these developments and, as such, has transformed our understanding of international law. There are many different approaches to the public/private distinction in law, broadly categorised into relational, public authority, and interest-based approaches. These can be reduced to four key elements of publicness: the existence of a community or public; the universality of the public regime in question with its own boundaries; normative and institutional hierarchies; the objectivity of obligation and responsibility. The development of the community interest and related norms of international law can be seen to have introduced and strengthened all of these elements of publicness within the international legal system. It is thus on its way to becoming an international public legal order. This has important implications for our understanding of international law and the future development of the international legal order.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-59
Number of pages25
JournalNetherlands International Law Review
Issue number1
Early online date19 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Community interest
  • International community
  • International legal system
  • International public interest
  • International public law
  • Public authority
  • LAW

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