School of Law

Public International Law lecture series

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This is a weekly lecture series featuring judges of international courts and tribunals, leading academics, and practitioners of international law from governmental service, international organizations, and private practice from across the globe. 


The Essex Public International Law lecture series is founded, hosted and co-chaired by Dr Meagan Wong and Dr Emily Jones based in the School of Law. The series prides itself on building upon two important intellectual traditions of international law: formalism and international legal practice, and international legal theory including postcolonial and feminist perspectives.

We welcome all students, academics, practitioners and legal advisors to join us.

Previous lectures

The United Nations Security Council at 75

25 January 2021

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the first Security Council Resolution, our inaugural lecture was on the topic of The United Nations Security Council at 75 presented by Professor Niels Blokker, Professor of International Institutional Law at Leiden University (Schermers Chair) and former Deputy Legal Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

Watch the recording on YouTube.

International Law and Russia's 2020 Constitutional Amendments

8 February 2021

Presented by Professor Lauri Mälksoo, Professor of International Law, University of Tartu, and member of the Institut de Droit International.

In this lecture, Professor Lauri Mälksoo discusses the international legal implications of constitutional amendments adopted in the Russian Federation by an “all-Russian vote”, a quasi-referendum from 25 June to 1 July 2020. The most important of these amendments gives the Russian Constitution priority over decisions made by international courts and treaty bodies. The amendments also address Russia’s state succession to the Soviet Union. Another provision protects Russia’s territorial integrity. Professor Mälksoo discusses the background to these amendments, their content, and their significance for international law.

Watch the recording on YouTube.

Capitalism as Civilisation

15 February 2021

Presented by Dr Ntina Tzouvala, Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University (ANU) College of Law.

The "standard of civilisation" is often considered a historically important but currently irrelevant concept of international law. In this talk, I suggest that this optimistic narrative is misguided. I suggest that "civilisation" has never been a unitary concept subject to a specific definition. Rather, I approach it as the encapsulation of a much more fundamental and enduring argumentative pattern, one that constantly oscillates between two logics. On the one hand, a certain 'logic of improvement' promises equal rights and duties under international law provided that non-Western political communities transform themselves according to the changing imperatives of capitalism modernity. On the other, an opposing 'logic of biology' perpetually defers this promise of equal inclusion based on ideas of unbridgeable difference. Revisiting the indeterminacy thesis in international law, I argue that international law's constant oscillation between these two logics is reflective of the fact that the discipline reflects capitalism's tendency for uneven and combined development without being able to authoritatively resolve it.

Watch the recording on YouTube.

Fireside chat “Negotiating maritime delimitation agreements.”

22 February 2021

Lucía Solano, Head of the Treaties Division, International Law Department at Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In her capacity as head of treaties in the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lucía Solano leads the negotiation of all sorts of agreements for her country, including in particular maritime delimitation agreements. Lucía thus brings her insights from the negotiating table and will provide suggestions on how States’ officials should prepare for negotiating these agreements. She will also share her thoughts on what the content of those agreements should be, bearing in mind the interest of States but also new developments in the law of the sea and the concerns of the communities located on both sides of a maritime boundary. 

Watch the recording on Youtube.

Global Law and the Populist Backlash - How to think about them?

1 March 2021

Professor Martti Koskenniemi, Professor of International Law at the University of Helsinki and Director of the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights.

The talk will examine the attacks on global rule by various anti-globalist, neo-nationalist and sometimes far-right movements in the developed west. International lawyers are obviously concerned. How should they understand these attacks and respond to them? Many have suggested that the attacks emerge from frustration by those “left behind”. Why is it then that suggestions for reform of international or European institutions do not interest or engage the critics? Is the reaction above all to economic deprivation or liberal cultural hegemony?  The talk will suggest that at issue is both a problem with the type of knowledge represented by global institutions as well as the monopolisation of the space left for politics in part by regimes of technical expertise and in part by a morality of rights that expects engaging with institutions that are felt as part of the problem. How is global law – or the idea of a “global law” – involved in these debates? Is it possible to imagine a global law that would not appear as a technocratic instrument for a policy of no alternatives? 

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea - Upholding the Rule of Law at Sea

8 March 2021

His Excellency Judge Kriangsak Kittichaisaree, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

As the author of the new book, entitled The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Oxford University Press, 2021), Judge Kittichaisaree will discuss the Tribunal’s intended role as the main dispute settlement mechanism for the international law of the sea under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Settlement of Disputes Part of which is the most complicated dispute settlement regime of all currently existing international courts and tribunals. The pros and cons of resorting to the Tribunal as compared with other forums that may have concurrent jurisdiction will be explained. So will the Tribunal’s limitations and unutilized potentials in rendering advisory opinions and judgments in contentious cases, including in new fields such as human rights at sea as well sea-level rise.

You can find the recording on Youtube.

The Travels of Human Rights: The UNESCO Human Rights Exhibition 1950-53

15 March 2021

 Professor Hilary Charlesworth, Melbourne Laureate Professor at Melbourne Law School and Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University.

This paper discusses a travelling exhibition designed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1950 to introduce the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations (UN), General Assembly, on 10 December 1948. I will first describe the provenance of the UNESCO exhibition and then discuss how its images relate to the rights contained in the UDHR. While designed to shore up the claims that the rights in the UDHR had a universal origin, these images tell us more than their curators intended about the specificity of the human at the centre of international human rights law.

You can find the recording on Youtube.

Systemic Integration, Revisited

22 March 2021

Professor Campbell McLachlan QC, Victoria University of Wellington.

What explains the persistence of the idea of international law’s systematicity in view of its decentralised nature, constantly dependent upon the shifting consent of states and the vagaries of political will? To what extent can its systemic character endure and adapt as the tectonic plates of geo-politics shift? In this lecture, Campbell McLachlan critically re-examines the evidence for the impulse to integrate the various specialised sub-fields of international legal cooperation into a coherent system: the impulse that underpins the principle of systemic integration. He does so in light of the practice of states and international tribunals, which has deepened over the last fifteen years since his research on the principle for the ILC Fragmentation Study Group in 2005. He tests the fruits of this internal analytical perspective against both an increasing scholarly critique and the external disintegrative pressures that the system currently faces––pressures that appear to challenge the very value of global cooperation under law that underpins the idea of systematicity.

You can watch the recording on Youtube.

Further Information

If you have any questions or if you would like to be added to our mailing list, please do not hesitate to get in touch via the details below. 

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Dr Meagan Wong
Dr Emily Jones
Upcoming events in the School of Law
Essex Public International Law Lecture: ECHR Protocol 15 – Brighton Revisited
14.06.21
Essex Public International Law Lecture: International Law and the Politics of History
21.06.21
Sociolegal Research Cluster Seminar: Doing Sociolegal Research in Design Mode
21.06.21