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International law must be “fit for the challenges of 21st century”

International law must remain in lockstep with the changing 21st century world and the needs of citizens or face irrelevance the Lord Chancellor, Alex Chalk, will stress to the G7’s justice leaders today (9 May 2024).

  • Lord Chancellor will warn that international law must be “a living instrument”, and “not suspended in time”
  • he will also outline the government’s lawful approach to combating illegal migration
  • it comes as Justice Ministers attend G7 forum to discuss increasing issues relating to law and justice

At the G7 Justice Ministers’ Meeting in Venice, the Lord Chancellor will acknowledge the unique value the forum brings in tackling the issues of law and justice currently facing the international system.

Speaking at the meeting, the Lord Chancellor is expected to say:

The international rules-based order, and so many of the legal frameworks we rely on for our peace and prosperity, emerged out of the ashes of World War II –- a completely different world from the one we live in today. Our nations are now grappling with new, thorny issues, from how to respond to mass migration as millions march across the world to the spectre of climate change, and the advent of new technologies, like AI, with all the opportunities and risks they bring.

If the law is to be respected by our citizens, it must deliver for them. Its frameworks must be capable of responding to 21st century problems. To be irrelevant is to be ignored, or still worse held in contempt – which risks damaging our freedom, safety and security.

The Lord Chancellor is expected to discuss the UK government’s priorities on illegal migration and demonstrate the UK’s action as proportionate and necessary:

The Rule of Law isn’t just about ensuring all are equal before the law – important though that is. It also means ensuring that those who don’t abide by the law aren’t materially advantaged by doing so. Illegality must have consequences.

The UK is not alone in facing these pressures – all of us are. Tackling smuggling gangs requires coordinated sustained international cooperation, including targeted upstream intervention.

He will conclude by outlining how the rule of law must help countries to protect their borders and will describe the law as a “living instrument” which must be up to date and tailored to reality: 

There will be some who take the view that the law should be no impediment to tackling irregular migration. But it is important for all of us here to be the voice that says “no”. We must uphold the rule of law, but it can also help us to protect our borders if we approach it in the right way.

The law is a living instrument, not suspended in time. It must underpin our citizens’ rights and freedoms, and to do that, it must also be up to date, and tailored to reality.

As a group of nations, it’s right that we should consider together the direction of travel for international law, to reinvigorate the rules-based order, so that it is fit to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.

The remarks come as the Lord Chancellor attends the G7 in Venice over the 9 and 10 May. Whilst there, he will meet with his counterparts to discuss key issues facing the world – including continued support for Ukraine, and how to best tackle illegal migration and drug trafficking.

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