By Kathryn Burkart, MJIL Staff Member

As a child, and admittedly young adult, I have loved the ride “It’s a Small World” at Disneyworld. While on the ride you sit in a boat that takes you into various rooms that represent different regions of the world where animatronic dolls all sing along to the lyrics of “It’s a Small World”[2] in their respective language. My favorite part of the ride is the final room. The décor leads you to believe you are at an amusement park, and at the park are individuals from all the “countries” you just visited, together signing in unison with no “wall” between them. The ride first opened in 1964[3] amidst an era of the philosophy that globalization is good.[4]

Following World War I, the American public was supportive of the policy of isolationism.[5] However, the aftermath of World War II led States to the conclusion that a globalized world with supranational organizations would help to preserve “international peace and security”[6] as well as promote an efficient globalized economy.[7] Flash forward to the present day where much of the rhetoric of States are nationalistic[8] and isolationist.[9] With events like ‘Brexit’[10] and States closing its borders to certain countries,[11]one may question if the world is entering an isolationist period similar to that of the early twentieth century. Are bodies like the WTO, EU or the UN no longer relevant? Were they ineffective in promoting the mission and goals envisioned by previous world leaders?

I would argue not. While these organizations are not without flaws, they, overall, have been effective during the transition into the modern globalized era. For example, the WTO’s primary membership of States are “developing” or “least developed.”[12] With a goal of opening up trade to boost economic growth and country development, the WTO has special provisions in place to protect these less developed nations as they work towards opening up their borders and globalizing trade.[13] Without the WTO Dispute Resolution System in place to enforce compliance, States likely would engage in “cheating” like behavior, where larger States dominate and developing nations never get an opportunity to grow or boost their economy (which in turn would create a less economically efficient market for all State actors).

Moreover, the United Nations is actively involved in maintaining peace and security among Nation States, and working to prevent global atrocities, such as, nuclear warfare or genocide.[14] While I will concede that international law has to adapt to the rapid changes of the twenty-first century, such as, terrorism committed by Non-State Actors, international cyber-warfare, and outsourcing. I believe amendments and adaptions in the law can be made to accommodate the rapidly changing global environment we live in.

It is incredibly unwise for States to turn their backs on international law and supranational organizations. If history can show us anything, it is that isolationist policy is not effective in preserving international peace or economic growth. It is yet to be seen what the repercussions of actions like ‘Brexit’ will have long term. However, States should not turn inwards, during this period of growing pains for modern international law, but turn towards each other. Leaders should not build a “wall” to close literal or economic borders, but utilize diplomatic relations to promote economic growth, human rights, and international security for all. Let us come together to celebrate our similarities and relish in our differences. We must truly remember that “it is a small world after all.”

[1] “It’s a small world” is a ride at both Disneyland and Disneyworld theme parks.

[2] Robert B Sherman & Richard M. Sherman, It’s a Small World (After All) (1964).

[3] Genevieve Shaw Brown, It’s a Small World: 9 Little-Known Facts, ABC News (Mar. 21, 2014), abcnews.go.com/Travel/disneys-small-world-facts/story?id=22990670. The attraction first premiered at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. Id.

[4] See generally U.N. Charter (founding an international peace and security system in 1945); General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Oct. 30, 1947, 61 Stat. A-11, 55 U.N.T.S. 194 [hereinafter GATT] (establishing legal norms to liberalize trade).

[5] American Isolationism in the 1930s, Office of the Historian, https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/American-isolationism.

[6] U.N. Charter Preamble.

[7] See GATT, supra note 4.

[8] Aaron Blake, Donald Trump’s full inauguration speech transcript, annotated, Washington Post (Jan. 20, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/20/Donald-trumps-full-inaguration-speech-transcript-annotated?utm_term=.7a6edb81daa5 (proclaiming “America First” during the inauguration speech).

[9] See, e.g., Alex Hunt & Brian Wheeler, Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU, BBC News (Feb. 1, 2017), www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887.

[10] Id.

[11] See Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration, Annotated, NPR (Jan. 31, 2017, 10:46AM), www.npr.org/2017/01/31/512439121/trumps-executive-order-on-immigration-annotated.

[12] The WTO can. . . help countries develop, World Trade Organization, https://www.wto.org/English/thewto_e/whatis_e/10thi_e/10thi06_e.htm.

[13] Id.

[14] 70 Ways the UN Makes a Difference, United Nations, www.un.org/un70/en/content/70ways.