After the First World War and the birth of the League of Nations, the world witnessed a new breed of diplomacy, the likes of which had never been seen before. Many would say the League failed in its aim of ‘maintaining international peace and security’, yet, its importance to modern world peace cannot be undermined. The League of Nations led us to an improved way of thinking out our problems and taught us to reason, not to riot. Much more importantly, it laid the blueprint for today’s United Nations and modern world diplomacy. Much like the League, the UNO also consists of several bodies - has a Security Council and a General Assembly and much of the UN Charter is inspired by the League’s Covenant. Even though the League failed to prevent another World War but after the second one, its revamping into the United Nations Organisation marked the demise of warfare and conflict. The world had seen enough of ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat.

A new age was ushered in, and as the world moved from warfare towards lawfare, long gone were the days of mighty, sword wielding conquerors on horse back or heroic medal laden generals leading their men into battle. Now was the time of black suits, eloquent oratory and shrewd diplomacy. Say what you will about the UNO, its monopolisation by world powers and its unfair treatment of certain cases, but one contribution no one can deny has been the way it has provided a platform for international law and order to flourish, a multilateral venue for the rule of law. Without doubt, in many places, conflict still rages today, but as long as mankind exists, so will conflict. The contribution of organisations such as the United Nations is much more ideological. Up until the turn of the decade, international law was played around with by powerful countries, used to their advantage when needed and simply ignored when not so useful. Yet, by 2016, the power of law and treatise had become progressively quite evident.

The latest evidence; UN Resolution 2334. For years, the United Nations has been slated for being controlled by the United States, or at least, by Western powers. It is for this reason that several world issues remain unsolved due to the interests and stakes of these super powers. One of these issues is of course the Israel-Palestine conflict. Contrary to popular sentiment, the UN has never taken decisive action against Israel. A huge factor in this indecisiveness is the United States’ unwavering support for Israel. Due to the Security Council’s veto rule, no resolution can be passed until and unless all of the permanent member states i.e. US, Britain, China, France and Russia either agree to it or abstain from voting on it. Hence, most of the resolutions passed by the UN against Israel make the organisation look passive and hesitant.

Despite all this and against all the odds, in December 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, in which Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory was condemned and deemed illegal. Under the resolutions first operative clause, the Security Council declared that Israel’s occupation in Palestine, since 1967, had ‘no legal validity’ and declared this occupation a ‘flagrant violation’ of international law and an ‘obstacle’ to the achievement of a just peace; a stern declaration of illegality against Israel.

All of this is derived from the UN Charter’s article 2(4) in which member states are instructed to ‘refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state’. In this case, the Israeli occupation was such a blatant violation of international law’s most important norm, that the US could not help but abstain from voting, allowing the resolution to be passed.

Many would argue that Resolution 2334 itself is tentative and irresolute, but then the pscyhe based on the law of occupation in vogue for hundreds of years cannot be changed in a matter of decades. There were times when Changez Khan, Salahuddin Ayubi and Alexander were hailed as ‘conquerors’. In today’s world, international law would not allow such imperial expansion and under law existing today such conquests would be considered international crime. Of course, there are still places where there is foreign intervention, both directly and indirectly, in violation of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, however, gradually, time will play its part, as it has before. After Iraq’s US-UK invasion in 2003, people questioned the need for international law, or its failure to control and regulate the activities of the super powers. Yet, within fourteen years, progress has been made. For the first time, a UN resolution has been passed that does not wholly serve the interests of the Security Council’s permanent members, instead, harms them.

Change is a gradual process, one that takes time and patience. Paradigms will continue to shift, just as they have in the past. The value, influence and precedence of international law will continue to grow. And as law becomes too overwhelming to ignore or manipulate, the people and states who have been victimised and aggressed in the past, to no incisive reaction from the UN, will find renewed trust and confidence in international law. What’s more, resolutions such as 2334 are a message to global super powers that the tides have turned and that to remain at the helm of world affairs, even they will have to be on the right side of law.