Democratizing International Law

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Jus cogens are peremptory norms of international law. No treaty between states can violate them. They are based on fundamental moral precepts and are supposed to reflect a global consensus. As a result, the views of the people of the world – not just states and courts and international lawyers – ought to be assessed as part of that. Direct democratic input into what should be considered jus cogens can be promoted by convening Global Citizens’ Juries on the norms under discussion. Deliberations in small groups of people drawn from many nations can provide robust indicators of what world opinion would be, if everyone had access to similar information and discussions. Where broad consensus emerges across several such Global Citizens’ Juries, countries, courts and others ought to take that into account in deciding what to treat as peremptory norms of international law. Such a process would mark a significant contribution to improving the democratic deficit that currently prevails in making and implementing international law.