Bridging Fragmentation and Unity: International Law as a Universe of Inter-Connected Islands

The fragmentation of the international legal system is not new. The consent-based nature of international law inevitably led to the creation of almost as many treaty regimes, composed of different constellations of states, as there are problems to be dealt with. Traditionally, these different regimes operated in virtual isolation from each other. Most importantly, the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank, IMF, and GATT, now WTO) focused on the world’s economic problems, while the UN institutions tackled the world’s political problems. Both the IMF and World Bank articles of agreement, for example, explicitly state that political factors cannot be taken into account. Operations are to be based (e.g. loans are to be distributed) solely on economic grounds (and not, for example, with reference to a country’s human rights or corruption record).