A basic introduction to international legal research in the Peace Palace Library. Your road map for approaching an international legal research problem. Step 8.
Soft law is handled only after consulting the sources listed in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice and considering peremptory norms of international law and resolutions and decisions of international organizations. While there is little agreement on a precise definition of soft law, it is a concept used to capture the fact that rules have varying degrees of force. It plays an important role in the development of international law because it may become binding when it is incorporated explicitly into international conventions or otherwise hardens into customary international law.
There is also disagreement over the use and value of soft law. It takes time for the legal researcher to fully grasp and appreciate that the use of certain sources of law and the weight of authority ascribed to them is not firmly settled. This ambiguity allows for creative legal arguments, and, from a research perspective, presents additional opportunity for research.
The Peace Palace Library Research Guides, prepared and maintained by our team of Law Librarians, may suggest certain books, articles and other materials on soft law considered indispensable for doing research on your specific topic.
You might consider our Library Instruction on how to conduct legal research in the Library at all levels.
Books and articles
- Abbott, K. and D. Snidal, "Hard and Soft Law in International Governance", in International Law: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Boulder; London, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009, pp. 21-48.
- Boyle, A.E., "Soft Law in International Law-Making", in M.D. Evans (ed.), International Law, Fifth Edition, Oxford, Oxford University, 2018, pp. 119-137.
- Boyle, A.E., "The Choice of a Treaty: Hard Law versus Soft Law", in The Oxford Handbook of United Nations Treaties, New York, Oxford University Press, 2019, pp. 101-117.
- Bradlow, D.D. and D. Hunter (eds.), Advocating Social Change through International Law: Exploring the Choice between Hard and Soft International Law, Leiden; Boston, Brill, 2020.
- Klabbers, J., "The Redundancy of Soft Law", Nordic Journal of International Law, 65 (1996), No. 2, pp. 167-182.
- Kolb, R., "To what Extent may Hard Law Content be Incorporated into Soft Instruments?", Schweizerische Zeitschrift für internationales und europäisches Recht = Revue suisse de droit international et de droit européen, 29 (2019), No. 3, pp. 335-344.
- Le Floch, G., "L'évolution de la soft law vers la hard law est-elle comparable en droit interne et international?", in Regards croisés sur la soft law en droit interne, européen et international, Issy-les-Moulineaux, LGDJ, 2018, pp. 335-345.
- Pronto, A.N., "Understanding the Hard/Soft Distinction in International Law", Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 48 (2015), No. 4, pp. 941-956.
- Nasser, S.H., Sources and Norms of International Law: a Study on Soft Law, Berlin, Galda & Wilch, 2008.
- Guide to International Legal Research, Fifth Edition, Newark, LexisNexis Matthew Bender, 2003.
- Hoffman, M.B. and R.C. Berring Jr., International Legal Research in a Nutshell, Second Edition, St. Paul, West Academic Publishing, 2017.
- Kuehl, H.F. and M.A. O'Brien, International Legal Research in a Global Community, Durham, Carolina Academic Press, 2018.
- Winer, A.S., M.A.E. Archer, and L. Louis-Jacques, International Law Legal Research, Durham, Carolina Academic Press, 2013.