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Unilateralism and the protection of global interests: opportunities and limits of the exercise of state jurisdiction

Final Report Summary - UNIJURIS (Unilateralism and the protection of global interests: opportunities and limits of the exercise of state jurisdiction)

The project’s hypothesis was that a novel legal principle was emerging that allowed states and the EU to unilaterally protect global values, such as human rights and anti-corruption, or unilaterally address common concerns, such as climate change and sustainable fishing on the high seas. It turns out that states and the EU do act unilaterally, but that they largely justify this on the basis of the territoriality principle. No ‘universality principle’ appears to have emerged outside the field of international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, torture). This may be surprising: in fact, when acting unilaterally, states and the EU address inherently global and transnational problems. It appears that, ultimately, territoriality is applied in an exceedingly flexible manner. In an interconnected world, activities may have (territorial) links with multiple jurisdictions, authorizing each one of them to exercise jurisdiction on the basis of a relatively weak nexus. The legitimacy of this weak nexus-based unilateral action appears to be boosted by its serving a global governance goal or function. This has enabled the construction of a novel theory of jurisdiction, which is partly grounded in territoriality and partly in universality. The research however also cautions restraint and reasonableness, as combined universal-territorial jurisdiction could easily degenerate into imperialism and abuse. Therefore, attention is drawn to principles such as non-discrimination, abuse of right, non-intervention, mutual recognition, and duties of assistance to developing countries.