The international community is a vague phrase used in geopolitics and international relations to refer to a broad group of people and governments of the world. It does not literally refer to all nations or states in the world. The term is typically used to imply the existence of a common point of view towards such matters as specific issues of human rights. It is sometimes used in calling for action to be taken against an enemy, e.g., action against what is in their opinion political repression in a target country.
The term is commonly used to imply legitimacy and consensus for a point of view on a disputed issue, e.g., to enhance the credibility of a majority vote in the United Nations General Assembly.
Several prominent legal figures and authors have argued that the term actually refers to a small minority of states. According to International Criminal Court jurist Victor P. Tsilonis, it refers to "the interests of the most powerful states" or "seven to ten states". President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea Paik Jin-hyun and co-authors Lee Seokwoo and Kevin Tan argue that it could refer to "some 20 affluent states", giving the example of those not members of the Non-Aligned Movement, while Professor Peter Burnell of the University of Warwick points out that a number of very important states, such as China, Russia and those of the Arab and Islamic worlds, are often distant from the concept of the "international community" and do not necessarily endorse every initiative associated with it, for example by abstaining from key votes in the United Nations Security Council.
British scholar and academic Martin Jacques says: "We all know what is meant by the term 'international community', don't we? It's the west, of course, nothing more, nothing less. Using the term 'international community' is a way of dignifying the west, of globalising it, of making it sound more respectable, more neutral and high-faluting."
- Paik, Jin-Hyun; Lee, Seok-Woo; Tan, Kevin (2013). Asian Approaches to International Law and the Legacy of Colonialism: The Law of the Sea, Territorial Disputes and International Dispute Settlement. Routledge. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-415-67978-7.
The media may declare, for example, that the nuclear programme of this or that developing or non-aligned country is opposed by the 'international community', whereas of the non-aligned, comprising some 122 Stares, the majority, if not all of them, support the right of their membership to carry out such programmes, opposition being manifest only among a relatively small proportion of the total number of States, which now stands at 193. Vagueness is a pervasive feature of media reporting and of political discourse. But use of the term 'international community' as implying 'all States' in full knowledge that it could only cover some 20 affluent States, is more than merely vague. It amounts to failure to take due account of the basic Charter principle. ... While it is clear that the term 'international community' does not comprise all States, or even a majority of them, there is no indication to which States that term, as used in the World Summit Outcome, is intended to refer.
- Hernández, Gleider I. (2014-05-29). The International Court of Justice and the Judicial Function. OUP Oxford. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-19-150255-2.
The term 'international community' is invoked ad nauseam in international law: it is invoked in almost every context, from General Assembly resolutions on the environment to humanitarian intervention to the realm of investment. Yet this variegated invocation of the term is deceptive: international lawyers still struggle with arriving at a well-defined understanding of the concept of an 'international community', whether in identifying the members that compose it, the values and norms that it represents, or the processes which underlie its functioning. In doctrine, the concept remains a 'constructive abstraction' that employed without definition, as though its meaning were sufficiently evident that no further detail or consideration is necessary.
- Tsilonis, Victor (2019-11-23). The Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Springer Nature. pp. 7, 23, 173. ISBN 978-3-030-21526-2.
As analysed in more detail below, the term 'international community' does not have the meaning one would expect, i.e. the representation of the majority of States; on the contrary, the term skilfully implies the representation of the interests of the most powerful states. [p. 7] ... Nebulous concepts such as 'attracting intenational interest' or 'international community' need to be avoided at all costs [p. 23] ... A term through which the author attempts to imply all the recognised States in the world, and not simply the seven to ten states implied by the common but "misty" term "international community". [p. 173]
- Burnell, Peter (2013-10-23). Democracy Assistance: International Co-operation for Democratization. Routledge. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-135-30954-1.
- Veit, Alex (2010-10-04). Intervention as Indirect Rule: Civil War and Statebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Campus Verlag. ISBN 978-3-593-39311-7.
Through the expansion of peacebuilding and related practices, the term international community has been modified. It refers still primarily to the collective of states. More recently, it is often used to describe world society. Yet as world society cannot constitute an actor, the latter meaning seems to serve mainly as a legitimating term for the former. ... The international community is a group of actors that claims to employ a common consensual perspective.
- Byers, Michael; Nolte, Georg (2003-05-29). United States Hegemony and the Foundations of International Law. Cambridge University Press. p. 30. ISBN 9781139436632.
- Danilenko, Gennadiĭ Mikhaĭlovich (1993-01-01). Law-Making in the International Community. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 204. ISBN 0792320395.
Those who believe that resolutions have become or are becoming an effective modern tool for rule-creation in an expanded international society often explain this phenomenon by reference to the fact that they manifest 'the general will of the international community [that] has acquired a certain legislative status.' Generally, a more cautious attitude prevails in state practice.
- "The Crimes of 'Intcom'".
- Jones, Katrina (2012-06-13). "Israel, US violators of international law, says Noam Chomsky". The News Tribe. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
- "Noam Chomsky on Iran | Satellite Magazine". satellitemagazine.ca. June 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-11-14. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
- Jacques, Martin (2006-08-24). "What the hell is the international community?". the Guardian. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
- Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilizations, 72 Foreign Aff. 22 (1992–1993)