How the international community faded away

Bernd Debusmann on an overworked cliché that has lost any meaning

The World Today
2 minute READ

Bernd Debusmann

Former diplomatic correspondent, Reuters

The term ‘international community’ has become a standard phrase in diplomatic discourse, media reports, think-tank essays and appeals by campaign groups whenever there is a crisis in the world.

The ‘international community’ is called upon to hasten the ends of wars, step up aid to victims of man-made or natural disasters, assure the fair treatment of refugees or condemn human rights violations, and so on. The list is long, the invocations frequent.

But the term is so amorphous that its usefulness merits a rethink. Is it time to take it to the graveyard of overused clichés? Perhaps alongside ‘the family of nations’, the equally vague and aspirational term that preceded it in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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