International Law Essay Topics

Following each question are suggested points or terms to include in a response. Think about the connection and how you would include the item.

  1. What are the sources of international law? How is global governance achieved legally?
    • Westphalia
    • treaties
    • customary practices
    • natural law
    • compliance and violation
    • human rights
    • IOs such as the UN
    • International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice
  2. How are human rights protected in the international system?
    • natural law
    • positive law
    • UN
    • 1948 declaration
    • 1966 covenants
    • International Criminal Court, with application to individuals
  3. Do states comply with international law? Why or why not?
    • states frequently violate international law (realism).
    • compliance with international law is more common than not (liberalism).
    • moral imperative to obey international law
    • framework for the conduct of global affairs
    • states fear reprisals, sanctions.
    • reciprocity
  4. How has international law addressed war and aggression?
    • rights of belligerents
    • rights of neutral states during war
    • UN charter allows for self-defense.
    • conventions seek to limit the means of warfare.
  5. Discuss the evolution of an IGO for collective security. How did the international community create the United Nations?
    • define collective security
    • Concert of Europe: why started, why failed
    • League of Nations: why started, why failed
    • UN: how different
    • functions, organs
  6. Discuss the roles of IGOs and NGOs in the international system. How does their participation impact state sovereignty?
    • define IGO; role of state
    • examples
    • define NGO; role of state
    • examples


Below is a list of webpages to visit to get ideas for research paper topics in international and comparative law. Click on the blue links to go directly to those pages.

Another way to find interesting topics for a research paper is to: (1) take one of your own personal interests or a real life issue (neither of which has to even be an international law topic), and then (2) find its connection to international law. For example:

  • Americans are debating whether convicted felons should be allowed to vote. To find the international law connection, go to an Internet search engine (such as Google or Yahoo!) and then type in the search terms “disenfranchisement + international law.” You will find existing treaties actually address the issue of criminal disenfranchisement.
  • In recent years, major sports figures have been accused of or disciplined for taking performance-enhacing drugs such as certain kinds of steroids. When you type in the search terms “doping + international law,” you will find a UN treaty which deals with that very issue.
  • Parents constantly debate the effectiveness of spanking their children as a disciplinary measure. When you type in the search terms “spanking + international law,” you will find examples of treaties which implicitly ban the use of corporal punishment of children. There is even an international legal movement to ban corporal punishment of children.


(a) Quick ideas:

  • New York International Law Review: This publication is published by the New York State Bar Association, and it lists recent decisions by New York state courts that involve some aspect of international law. You’ll find this in the Periodicals section of the Law Library.
  • International Law Practicum: Also published by the New York State Bar Association, this publication focuses on the practical aspects of practicing law in an international setting.
  • International Legal Materials: This is the actual name of the monthly publication, and it’s located in the Periodicals section of the Law Library. Here, you will find recent international law decisions issued by a variety of courts and tribunals.
  • International Human Rights Reports: This publication lists recent international human rights decisions. Back issues can be found in the stacks of the Mendik Law Library. (K3239 .I58)
  • American Journal of International Law: This publication (which comes out four times a year) has a wide variety of international and comparative law stories. You’ll find this is the Periodicals section of the Mendik Law Library. The tables of contents of back issues are also online.
  • World Trade Organization cases: This page provides a listing of recent cases decided by the World Trade Organization.
  • North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Claims: This page has a listing of different parties who have submitted claims to a NAFTA dispute settlement panel.
  • Judicial Monitor: This page has a listing of international judicial news from around the world.
  • Library of Congress Global Legal Monitor: This page has a wide assortment of interesting international and comparative law stories from around the world.
  • NYLS Guide to International Legal Research: Various listing of international law resources.
  • The International Review: This is the only newsletter published by an ABA-accredited law school that reports on a wide variety of international and comparative law issues . . . all in plain English.

(b) Primary Sources:

(c) Secondary Sources:

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