Here's a strange sort of -- apparently vaguely conservative -- concern about "international law": The Eagle Forum Web site has a piece about the International Baccaulaureate Organization, which complains about the fact that disputes with the IBO have to be resolved under foreign rules related to international contracts:
The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, offers three different International Baccalaureate (IB) programs and is responsible for assisting schools with implementation so that children learn how to become "engaged world citizens" (IBO, 2006).... All of the programs come with tests administered by the IBO.
Like many other schools in the United States, some Oklahoma schools offer at least one of the three IB programs at the taxpayers' expense....
To offer IB programs, schools undergo a process governed by the IBO. Once complete, the schools operate with the guidance and support of the organization.
In its Rules for Authorized Schools, the schools must "abide by all the IBO regulations and procedures" (IBO, 2005, p.18).
Interestingly, Article 12 notes that Swiss law governs the Rules and all other documentation related to the authorization for teaching an IB program (IBO, 2005, p.22) (emphasis added).
Under Article 13, arbitration is the way to resolve disputes regarding the Rules. The arbitration process consists of three arbitrators who act under the Rules of Arbitration from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Switzerland; the seat for arbitration is in Geneva (IBO, 2005, p.22)....
As of January 1, 2004, Switzerland replaced its arbitration rules with that of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, otherwise known as UNCITRAL ("New Swiss Rules," 2004). According to UNCITRAL's web site, this organization is the "core legal body" of the United Nations, whose goal is to promote "commercial law reform" across the globe (UNCITRAL, 2006)....
Neither Switzerland nor the United Nations operates under American law, which seems to be further proof our children and IB schools in America become a subject of so-called international law once the school signs a contract with the IBO....
This strikes me as a very odd, and rather hyperbolically worded, objection. If U.S. schools want to get for their students the benefits of an internationally recognized credential, they need to enter into a contract with a foreign entity -- just as if U.S. schools want to get for their students the benefits of, say, foreign-produced computers or lab equipment or gym equipment, they need to enter into a contract with a foreign entity. With such contracts, one or the other side (or perhaps both) will have to agree to have the contract decided by laws other than its own home country's. Sometimes it makes sense for us to demand that such disputes be governed by our own law, but sometimes it's just not a big deal (especially when we're dealing with an international organization that understandably wants all its disputes governed by the same legal rules).
This is especially so since the typical dispute, I imagine, will have to do with an American family's claim that the IBO authorities somehow didn't give their child proper credit or the proper grade. The only thing at stake is the benefit that the child will get from his IBO participation.
If somehow the foreign legal rules end up unfair to the child, he'll lose very little -- it's hardly that the "child" will "become a subject of so-caleld international law" in any meaningful sense. And there's not even any real reason to expect that the rules will end up being unfair. Plus if for whatever reason a school district becomes dissatisfied with the value it's getting from the IBO program, it can simply wash its hands of the program. (The paper I point to also makes a more substantive criticism, suggesting that the IBO may not maintain proper security of student records -- that at least is a sensible thing to argue about; and if the state is concerned about this, it may well demand contractual assurances from the IBO, just as it can demand contractual assurances of information confidentiality from any other organization, foreign or domestic, which it does business.)
In some situations, there may well be reason to worry about submitting to foreign legal rules, or to the jurisdiction of foreign courts. But in some situations, there's little reason to worry about it -- and when one is trying to get the benefits of contracting with international organizations (whether service providers, certification providers, or product providers), such transnational choice-of-law rules or choice-of-forum rules make perfect sense. Conservative or liberal, we must realize that we live in the larger world, that our children can benefit from credentials and products that come from this larger world, and that sometimes disputes arising under international business relations will be decided under foreign law. Nothing inherently bad about that, it seems to me.
Thanks to reader Carl Sanders for the pointer.