Document Type


Publication Date



Over the past two decades, cities and provinces have emerged as economically and politically powerful actors in global affairs. They have begun to demand access to and participation in the international legal system. Yet, the traditional rules of international legal personality limit full, formal participation to sovereign equal nation states. Nonetheless, in response to the localization of new transnational challenges, subnational governments are finding ways to access international legal processes and influence the development of international legal norms. They are seeking accommodation within existing institutions and legal processes; emulating international law through their own commitments and organizations; incorporating international law directly into municipal and provincial statutes; and invoking international law as a shield and a sword in domestic and global politics. International lawyers have turned a blind eye to these developments. This paper illuminates that subnational blind-spot. Subnational participation in international law, if carefully and deliberately structured, can provide the international legal system much needed political energy, improve legitimacy and normative diversity, and enhance commitment and implementation. For that to happen, however, international lawyers must first recognize and understand the role of the subnational.


International law, cities, provinces, rules of international legal personality, sovereignty, accommodation, access, methods, commitments, organizations, U20, incorporation of international law into provincial & local statutes, political sword and shield, subnational engagements in global affairs

Publication Citation

47 Yale J. Int'l L. (Forthcoming).