Ethnocentrism, that one’s own group, ethnicity orEthnocentrism, that one’s own group, ethnicity or

although not widely discussed, is common in societies and also brings about interesting
debates as to how exactly it impacts the development of international law.

Essentially ethnocentrism, derived from the Greek word ‘ethnos’, which means
nation or people, is defined as (according to Merriam Webster Dictionary) “the
attitude that one’s own group, ethnicity or nationality is superior to others.”1
The belief that one group is better than the other has destroyed few societies
and even created doubt in some of the laws today. It seems that ethnocentrism
has many disadvantages rather than benefits with regards to international law. One
being that the law may favour a specific group of people over another. For example
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that people have a right to
freedom of movement and right to individual ownership of property2,
however for one living in a country or society which prohibits them from owning
land due to cultural claims or anything of that matter, it negates the
declaration. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, created in 1948,
appears to reflect the ways of a liberal western society, but there are many
people who are not familiar with this lifestyle. But, for the declaration to be
taken out of context and amended so that other groups of people can accept and understand
it would be impractical and may not even have the same effect as it currently

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            Another example of its impact on the
development of international law is America. The United States, notoriously
considered as a melting pot (unlike Canada J),
“has often thought of itself as more powerful, more economically sound and just
generally ‘better’ than other nations.”3
In 2003, America went to war with Iraq due to a list of fictitious reasons. It
was clear that Americans were angered by the events that took place on
September 11th 2001 (which the Iraqi’s had nothing to do with), and felt
a kind of hatred towards people from the eastern parts of the world because of
the attacks. Hence, as retaliation to this along with other motives, a war was
initiated in Iraq. Nonetheless, with no actual justification for the war and
disapproval from the United Nations before hand, the UN and International Court
of Justice never publicly castigated the United States. It was even argued by Russian
President Vladimir Putin “the use of force abroad, according to existing
international laws, can only be sanctioned by the United Nations. This is the
international law. Everything that is done without the UN Security Council’s
sanction cannot be recognized as fair or justified.” 4

            To conclude, the concept of
ethnocentrism has not revealed distinct ways that it can positively impact the
development of international law. Instead, it is obvious that it hinders its
development considering some people cannot identify with the laws made to
protect them because of cultural values and differing ways of life others do
not obey laws set to ensure the safety of countries and its citizens. Rather
than moving forward and creating new laws and methods of protecting everyone at
their best interest, organizations like the UN have to look into ways in which
they can amend already made laws and sanction those who do not adhere to the
principles. In addition, there cannot be any development in international laws
when countries are aggressively attacking other nations for reasons like pride
and are not held accountable for their disgusting actions.

1 “Ethnocentrism.” Merriam-Webster,

2 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United
Nations, United Nations,

3 YourDictionary. “Examples of Ethnocentrism.” YourDictionary,
29 Sept. 2017,

4 “Legality of the Iraq War.” Wikipedia,
Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Jan. 2018,

Human Rights Ethnocentric?” Are Human Rights Ethnocentric? | Rochester