Article title International Law Aspects of the Democracy Principle

Doctor of Law, Professor (Kyiv, Ukraine)


Name of magazine Legal journal «Law of Ukraine» (Ukrainian version)
Issue 11/2019
Сторінки [144-152]

Along with national law aspects, the principle of democracy also has international law aspects, since in the State’s international relations it is a tool which facilitates the interaction of the peoples with each other and the expression of the people’s will in international relations through state bodies. An indirect influence on the forming and functioning of international law may be made by international non-governmental organizations. International law comprises certain provisions aimed at protecting peoples and their existence.

The purpose of the article is to determine the relationship of the principle of democracy with the principles of international law and to ascertain the influence of the direct democracy instruments on the development of international law.

Although the principle of democracy is a principle of national, and not of international law, it also applies to international law. This principle is closely linked to such basic principles of international law as the principle of sovereign equality of States, the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and nations, the principle of non-interference of States in each other's internal affairs and respect for human rights. Some thinkers try to conceptualize international law as the law of peoples with own principles. Although modern international law does not contain the principle of democracy, it is an essential condition and a peculiar guarantee of efficient implementation of the democracy principle in national law. Exploring international law development trends, some authors note the process of democratization of international law, and also step-by-step establishment of the democracy principle in the system of international law. The democracy principle is a general principle of law, although its content and understanding may vary from State to State.

One of the main instruments of direct democracy is the referendum, which correlates with international law by two main aspects. First, States may hold referendums in their territory with regard to certain issues related to international politics and international law. Secondly, international practice has the experience of referendums (plebiscites) held under the auspices of international organizations as regards the status of a certain territory. As for the plebiscite, it is one of the old institutions of international law and an evidence of democratic trends in international law. The plebiscite has a dual legal nature: on the one part, it is an institution of national law, and on the other part – the institution of international law. One of important trends in international law evolution is the emerging international “soft law” documents which define the general parameters for holding of referendums.

Therefore, although the principle of democracy has not yet found its clear consolidation in international law, its influence on the latter’s development grows increasingly, and the direct democracy instruments are formed within the framework of international law.


Keywords democracy; direct democracy; referendum; international law; principles of international law; public initiative


Authored books

1. Volova L, Plebiscit v mezhdunarodnom prave [Plebiscite in International Law] (Mezhdunarodnye otnoshenija 1972) (in Russian).


Journal articles

2. Roulz Dz, ‘Pravo narodov’ [‘Law of the Peoples’] (2010) 9 Voprosy filosofii <> (accessed: 01.08.2019) (in Russian).

3. Korotkij T, ‘Demokratizacija mezhdunarodnogo prava’ [‘Democratization of International Law’] (2010) IX Naukovi pratsi Natsionalnoho universytetu “Odeska yurydychna akademiia” (in Russian).



4. Volova L, ‘Plebiscit v mezhdunarodnom prave’ [‘Plebiscite in International Law’] (avtoref diss kand jurid nauk, 1968) (in Russian).