When it came to almost any emerging issue in international law, Professor Caron was at the forefront and, in many cases, had already written about it. We saw this with issues ranging from the minimum standard of treatment in Glamis Gold v. United States of America, in which he served as arbitrator, to the effects of rising sea levels on baselines, on which he published in the 1990s before the issue was at the forefront of discussions.
The theme of Berkeley Law’s September 2018 Symposium honoring the memory of Professor David Caron was “The Elegance of International Law.” This intriguing theme was taken from David’s opening address, entitled “Confronting Complexity, Valuing Elegance,” at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law in April 2012. His address opens with an analysis, drawing on a daunting array of sources and disciplines, probing the challenging notion of complexity.
The view that participation by the respondent state enhances the perceived legitimacy of international judicial or arbitral proceedings may play a significant role in a decision not to participate. Such a decision may be prompted by political rather than legal considerations. The object of nonparticipation may be to facilitate exercise of a political option of noncompliance with the judgment or award, notwithstanding prior agreement that it is legally binding.
This essay offers an installment of what would have been a continuing conversation with David D. Caron, a close colleague in the field of international law, on themes that engaged both of us across multiple phases of our intersecting careers. The issues are fundamental ones for both the theory and the practice of international law, involving such core concerns as how international law can be enforced in an international system that is not yet adequately equipped with institutions to determine the existence and consequences of violations or to impose sanctions against violators; and how to ensure that self-help enforcement measures in a largely decentralized and still incomplete system are consistent with the principles and values underlying the international legal order.