Public International Law lecture series launched

  • Date

    Tue 9 Feb 21

Two legal experts have launched a new lecture series, to bring together different perspectives from the increasingly important field of Public International Law.

Dr Emily Jones and Dr Meagan Wong, from the School of Law, have launched the new series at a time of fierce debate on the need for renewed multilateralism to address challenges including the climate crisis, and the consequences of war.

Dr Meagan Wong said: “Public International Law, often referred to as PIL, is the legal framework of rules that apply to States, international organisations and to an extent, individuals like you and me. It recognises the human rights of individuals; and individual criminal responsibility when individuals commit international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

“It has relevance for any issue that merits the attention of the international community, so steps to address climate change and sea-level rise, to manage shared resources, enter into new trade agreements - all involve Public International Law.”

The ways in which international organisations like the United Nations, the African Union and the International Criminal Court are run are also governed by PIL.

Dr Emily Jones said: “Public International Law is uncertain - some rules are clearly universal but other rules are highly contested. It is a space fraught with debate and tension and this is where the interesting stuff lies for me; the politics of it all. International law both upholds power structures but has also been created through them. This includes gendered and racialised structures as well as, importantly, the legacies of colonialism which are still very much present in the contemporary operation of PIL.”

Importantly, Public International Law also places obligations on States to settle their disputes peacefully, and so governs the international courts and tribunals which are mandated to peacefully settle disputes between States.

The series will bring together two traditions within Public International Law: legal formalism and international legal practice; and international theory including postcolonial and feminist perspectives.

Dr Jones said: “Dr Wong is a formalist and thereby works to engage with the legal rules and their interpretation. I am a critical legal scholar meaning my research focuses more on the politics and power side of things. Of course, these two areas overlap and to be a good critical scholar you need to know the law, but the approaches taken can differ quite a bit. Through this series, Dr Wong and I are seeking to bring key academics and practitioners from across the spectrum of perspectives together into one series.”

The lecture series launched on 25 January, the 75th anniversary of the first resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council. Professor Niels Blokker, the Chair of International Institutional Law at Leiden University and former deputy head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, addressed The UN Security Council at 75. The Security Council has primary responsibility within the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Going forward, the series will bring together a range of perspectives and feature judges currently working in the international courts and tribunals, legal scholars, government advisors and lawyers working in private practice.

Upcoming events:

15 February - Essex Public International Law Lecture: Capitalism as Civilisation

22 February - Essex Public International Law Lecture: Fireside chat “Negotiating maritime delimitation agreements”

1 March - Essex Public International Law Lecture: Global Law and the Populist Backlash

8 March - Essex Public International Law Lecture: International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea - Upholding the Rule of Law at Sea

15 March - Essex Public International Law Lecture: The Visual and International Law