Implications of the Diversity of the Rules on the Use of Force for Change in Law

The presentation seeks to explore structural conditions within the jus ad bellum that affect whether and how that law changes. In particular, how the diversity of the rules that form the law relating to the use of force affects the development of rules permitting the use of force to protect human rights. It is argued that, unlike with self-defense, changes to customary international law would not automatically lead to changes in the Charter prohibition of the use of force. Since any rule permitting humanitarian intervention would create a new exception to the Charter prohibition of the use of force and a norm of jus cogens, that change cannot occur based on custom alone. Changes to interpretations of the UN Charter and a jus cogens norm will be required, and such changes must occur in line with the rules regarding how such norms change. Finally, a consideration of the one concrete possibility for a change to the jus ad bellum that would allow humanitarian intervention without UN Security Council approval: approval of such a use of force by the UN General Assembly under the ‘Uniting for Peace’ Resolution of 1950. This is with a disregard to the political and practical challenges of achieving such change, the conversation will consider the conceptual challenges that would need to be overcome.


  • Professor Dapo Akande, University of Oxford, UK Candidate for the International Law Commission
  • Monica Feria-Tinta, Twenty Essex Chambers
  • Professor Mohamed Helal, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law; Co-chair, ASIL Africa Interest Group
  • Professor Naz K. Modirzadeh, Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict
  • Ijeoma Ononogbu, International Dispute Resolution; Co-chair, ASIL Africa Interest Group (Moderator)
  • Professor Tom Ruys, Ghent University