UCL Faculty of Laws


Online | The Process of Change in International Law

18 March 2021, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

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A Current Legal Problems Lecture to be delivered by Professor Nico Krisch (The Graduate Institute Geneva)

Event Information

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Speaker: Professor Nico Krisch (The Graduate Institute Geneva)
Chair: Sir Frank Berman QC (University of Oxford and University of Cape Town)

About the Lecture

The relation of change and stability is a perennial question in law, but it poses particularly urgent problems in international law because of the lack of a proper legislature and the scarcity of courts. Beyond the conclusion of treaties, though, the process of change in international law is little understood. Most observers focus on doctrinal categories associated with change – especially the requirements for new customary rules, or as regards treaties, the threshold for change through subsequent practice. Yet these hardly reflect the dynamism of international law in many areas, nor can they help us to understand the observable variation in dynamism across areas and institutional contexts. In this talk, I try to get closer to a broader account of change that starts, rather than from doctrinal categories, from the practices of actors in relation to international law. The resulting picture is one of a diversity of authority structures in the different fields of international law, brought about endogenously through social practice, and driving change onto particular ‘paths’. States are often central actors, though their weight varies with the social and institutional context in which change attempts are embedded. Drawing on the findings of a considerable number of case studies, I reconstruct the ways in which change occurs in international law and use our findings to suggest an account of the international legal process which transcends the normative and analytical limitations of existing approaches of this kind. Rather than a set of rules (or even a legal system), international law then appears as a multitude of processes, often intersecting and with varying degrees of authority, through which actors navigate, recreate and transform the content of the law.

About the Speaker

Nico Krisch is a professor of international law at the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies in Geneva. His main research interests concern the legal structure of global governance, the politics of international law, and the emerging postnational legal order. Prior to joining the Graduate Institute, he held faculty positions at the Catalan Institution for Advanced Studies, the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, and the Law Department of the London School of Economics. He was a research fellow at Oxford University’s Merton College, at New York University School of Law and at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, as well as a visiting professor at Harvard and Columbia Law Schools. He holds a PhD in law from the University of Heidelberg. His 2010 book, Beyond Constitutionalism: The Pluralist Structure of Postnational Law (OUP), received the Certificate of Merit of the American Society of International Law. Dr Krisch is a member of the Council of the International Society of Public Law, and of the editorial or advisory boards of the European Journal of International Law, the Journal of International Dispute Settlement, and the London Review of International Law. He holds a European Research Council Advanced Grant for a project on change in international law, and in 2019, he was awarded the inaugural Max Planck-Cambridge Prize for International Law.


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.