International Journal of
Peace and Development Studies

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. Peace and Dev. Stud
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6621
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJPDS
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 103


An essay on the necessity for universal outlawing of use of force in the 21st century

Graham Nicholson
Hidden Words Bookshop, P. O. Box 1010 Kuranda Qld 4881 Australia.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 24 May 2013
  •  Published: 31 October 2013



The essay addresses what is argued to be a pressing need for the introduction of binding law, applicable at all levels of human society, in the form of a ban on the use of force as a method of conflict resolution. It is envisaged that the proposed legal ban would operate at both the national and international levels and would be given the force of a peremptory norm or ius cogens, applicable to and binding on all governments, bodies, groups and individuals, with a legal force that overrode any international, regional, national or sub national law. It would be expressed to be subject to the narrowest of exceptions, being only those cases that are genuinely necessary in the public interest, for example, under an accepted system of international collective security or in aid of the internal police power to ensure peace and good order, and then only if the degree of force is appropriate and reasonable in all the circumstances and is not in breach of fundamental human rights (other than the right to self-determination or any other right that asserts there is an associated right to use force in aid). The essay notes that there is already a patchwork of both international and national laws that seek to ban or restrict the use of force at various levels, or which condemn the use of force, but it argues that now is the time to express that ban in a comprehensive, consistent, coherent and universal manner applicable at all levels of human society and in all circumstances. In the 21st century, any continuing acceptance of the legitimacy of the use of force in any situation is said to be incompatible with the notion of a civilized global human society and can only be described as being barbaric. In a world still torn by violent conflict notwithstanding the rush to globalization, this is arguably the most pressing need of the age. This paper takes the view that it is time to put such a general legal prohibition into the law of the world. The essay accepts that merely introducing such a general legal ban will not in itself prevent the continuing use of force where the actors are intent on breaching that new law. The essay makes it clear that such a ban cannot, by itself, be a panacea for resolving all conflict. But it is argued that such a ban would have a profound effect on global thinking about the need for a peaceful world and may gradually lead to a change in emphasis and approach on the part of the main actors. It would place a heavy onus on any entities seeking to use force to justify their actions, which in time may facilitate refinement of methods and institutions for prevention of the use of force and improvement of methods of peaceful resolution of conflict; nor is it argued in the essay that it would be easy to reach agreement on the terms of any such general ban. The impediments to implementation are discussed in the essay and are seen as being huge and deep seated. But then all contrary arguments will ultimately be seen for what they really would be – against the best interests of the planet as a whole and all humanity in seeking a future world of peace, prosperity and security; one in which the expectation is that conflicts will be resolved by peaceful, lawful and fair means. The interests of universal justice must ultimately demand this result, because the arbitrary contest of opposition might can never equate with justice. And the very exercise of consultation in an effort to seek such agreement can be expected to have beneficial side effects. Ultimately it is argued that humanity will be driven to accept that the use of violence and brute strength as a means of human conflict resolution is incompatible with this modern global age and the establishment of a united and peaceful world civilization. The introduction of the proposed general legal ban would arguably be a huge step in that direction.


Key words: Universal, international, national, legal, ban, use of force, conflict resolution, peremptory norm, collective security, global, human society, peace, non-violence, world civilization, world law.


“It is my conviction that nothing enduring can be built on violence.” - Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

“In this, the cycle of Almighty God, violence and force, constraint and oppression, are one and all condemned.” - Baha'u'llah.