UCL Faculty of Laws


Online | Regional Orders and International Law: The End of Geography or the Return of Geopolitics?

26 November 2020, 12:00 pm–1:00 pm

image of the world in jigsaw puzzle format

A Current Legal Problems Lecture to be delivered by Professor Anne Orford (The University of Melbourne)

Event Information

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UCL Laws

Speaker: Professor Anne Orford (The University of Melbourne)
Chair: Sir Daniel Bethlehem KCMG QC (Twenty Essex)

About the Lecture

In 2014, Daniel Bethlehem, former principal Legal Advisor of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, published an influential lecture speculating that international lawyers were witnessing ‘the end of geography’ – a moment in which traditional principles of international law premised on the centrality of the sovereign nation-state were losing their capacity to make sense of social and political transformations. Rather than witnessing the end of geography, this lecture will suggest that we are confronting the return of a geopolitics unapologetically organised around regionalism or ‘greater spaces’. While the system of international order consolidated in the UN Charter is often thought to be premised upon the nation-state, the Charter also embeds concepts of regional order drawn from the geopolitics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Contemporary international law continues to be a laboratory for experiments in regional ordering, through doctrinal innovations aimed at enabling economic integration, justifying new bases for the resort to force, promoting freedom of navigation, and controlling the movement of people. This lecture will explore the ways in which regional forms of spatial ordering are being revived. It will analyse the new languages, principles and concepts through which lawyers representing different regional hegemons are seeking to make sense of these practices and consider the stakes of these developments for the vast majority of states now faced with competing demands for their allegiance.

About the Speaker

Anne Orford is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor, the inaugural holder of the Michael D Kirby Chair of International Law, and an Australian Laureate Fellow at Melbourne Law School. She has held numerous visiting positions globally, including most recently as Visiting Professor and John Harvey Gregory Lecturer on World Organization at Harvard Law School. She has been awarded honorary doctorates by Lund University, the University of Gothenburg, and the University of Helsinki. She is a past President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. Her major publications include Reading Humanitarian Intervention (2003), International Authority and the Responsibility to Protect (2011), The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law (2016) (co-edited), and Pensée Critique et Pratique du Droit International (2020). Her latest book, International Law and the Politics of History, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. She will present a Special Course on Civil War and the Transformation of International Law at the Hague Academy of International Law in 2021.


This event will be delivered via Zoom Webinar. Attendee cameras and microphones will be turned off but they will be able to put questions to the panel via the Q&A box. You will receive your zoom joining link 48-hours before the start of the event. Contact the Laws Events team (laws-events@ucl.ac.uk) if you have not receive the link

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About Current Legal Problems

The Current Legal Problems (CLP) lecture series and annual volume was established over fifty five years ago at the Faculty of Laws, University College London and is recognised as a major reference point for legal scholarship.