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It is time for a fresh look at the norm of nonintervention in domestic affairs, as applied to nonforcible efforts to influence another state's internal politics. The existence of such a norm is widely proclaimed, and it is commonly assumed to be a legal obligation rather than a mere practice of comity or aspirational objective. For governments, scholars and international organs alike, the "rule" against interference in internal politics seems to be an article of faith; but despite the frequency of its incantation in international discourse, how the norm applies to nonforcible conduct is inadequately understood.

This article considers the norm of nonintervention in relation to nonforcible support for political movements, political parties or political candidates in other states, focusing on two concrete problems of current concern. The first is transnational campaign funding: does a state violate international law when it sends money to influence a political contest in another state? The second is economic leverage applied for political purposes: does international law prohibit states from implementing policies affecting trade, aid or other economic relations, where their objective is to affect the outcome of another state's internal political process?


Law | Law and Politics | Military, War, and Peace


© 1989 American Society of International Law. This article has been published in the American Journal of International Law and is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use.