Monday, November 12, 2007

Call for Papers: Fostering a Scholarly Network: International Law and Democratic Theory

The Australian & New Zealand Society of International Law, the American Society of International Law, the Canadian Council on International Law, and the Japan Society of International Law have issued a call for papers for a conference on "Fostering a Scholarly Network: International Law and Democratic Theory," to be held in September 2008 at the University of Alberta. Here's the call:

The sponsoring organizations of "Fostering a Scholarly Network: International Law and Democratic Theory" invite submissions for a collaborative exchange and discussion of papers at an event to take place in September 2008 in Canada at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta. As is detailed below, the conference will explore the relationship between democracy and international law, including such topics as the adherence by democratic states to international law and the democratic credentials of international organizations and the law they develop and enforce.

The event is taking place during CCIL's 35th anniversary year. It is the second event on the theme of international law and democratic theory undertaken by the four societies. The first took place in June 2006 in Wellington, New Zealand. Papers from that event have been published in (2007) 38:2 Victoria University of Wellington Law Review. Four papers from each sponsoring society will be selected by a Steering Committee comprising members from the four societies. Participants will be notified in January 2008. The conference working language will be English.

All proposals should include a project description and the applicant’s curriculum vitae. All proposals selected for Steering Committee review should be in English with project descriptions not to exceed 500 words. Preference will be given to applicants in the early stages of their careers and who have not had opportunities to present at an international conference. Successful CCIL candidates will be expected to be members of the CCIL by the time of the conference. Additional preference will be given to innovative and cutting edge proposals related to International Law and Democratic Theory. A list of topic examples follows the theme statement. The submission deadline is December 14, 2007.

Submissions should cover work that was not previously published. Discussions are underway with the Alberta Law Review on the production of a special edition of that peer-reviewed journal. It is anticipated that this edition will include papers from the event that satisfy a double-blind peer review process.

Theme Statement: International Law and Democratic Theory

Democratic theory has long been part of legal scholarship dealing with national law in democratic societies. Legal scholars have long struggled, for example, with the "counter-majoritarian" difficulty of explaining why non-elected judges who hold office for life are nonetheless responsive to democratic society and its needs. At a time of ever-rising levels of international regulation and a proliferation of international institutions, including international tribunals and other forms of institutionalized dispute settlement, it is inevitable that comparable issues now emerge with respect to international law. A number of international lawyers are now addressing whether international law and institutions are "democratic." It appears that democratic societies, particularly today, pose special questions with respect to entering into, complying with or implementing international law. Ancient tensions between respect for "sovereignty" and the "ceding" of sovereign power to supranational authority common to all nations take a special form in such societies. Specifically, the tension between the two spheres of governance is increasingly perceived to be one between submitting to rules established through "democratic" processes and submitting to rules that are not the product of the familiar processes associated with democracies (namely law issued by elected, representative officials and subject to democratic "checks and balances" such as the separation of powers between executive, legislative and judicial branches of government).

While some liberal theorists of international law have asserted that such societies are more likely to comply with international law than are authoritarian regimes, particularly when international obligations arise from the relations between democracies, the evidence for this is at best tenuous. In any case, even the advocates of such a "liberal theory" of international law would not deny that democratic polities are more apt to question whether international legal obligations, both treaty based or customary, are sufficiently "accountable" or "transparent." At a time when international law purports to affect virtually every subject that is also affected by national law - from family law issues to the rights of property holders like foreign investors - it is no surprise that democracies are asking whether particular treaty or customary law regimes are compatible with national law or national institutions.

Tensions concerning the inter-penetration of national and international law are emerging in all three branches of democratic governments. Our executive branches, attentive to the results of the most recent election that put them into power, have sometimes resisted entering into certain treaties or have attempted to make treaty reservations that would eliminate the need to change existing national law. Our national judiciaries are wrestling with whether to give effect to international law seemingly at odds with rules issued by national legislatures that give effect to the will of the electorate - a struggle that is reflected in, for example, differing assessments of whether to accord respect to the decisions of international courts or the interpretations of treaties issued by other foreign courts. Legislatures and parliaments have sometimes resisted ceding their prerogatives to international institutions (as to the WTO dispute settlement system, for example) and they have not always fully implemented treaty obligations through the issuance of national law. In some cases, they are resisting giving direct effect to international obligations, as by refusing to recognize a private cause of action to individuals for violations of customary or treaty law. And democracies that are also federations, subject to delineated powers between federal and state or provincial units within them, are also facing questions about whether or how international obligations are supposed to be accommodated given traditional notions of federalism or conceptions of residual state/provincial sovereignty. In addition, the abundant civil society groups that enrich democratic societies, including NGOs that are active internationally, have sometimes opposed or criticized international regimes - from the trade regime to that of the ICC - on the premise that international civil servants or international adjudicators lack democratic credentials, are subject to capture by special interests not fully reflective of the national interest, or do not adhere to the transparent and accountable procedures associated with, for example, national administrative agencies. The alleged “democratic deficit” of certain international institutions, a complaint once heard only within European states in connection with the structures of the European Union, is now the subject of a voluminous literature across international legal regimes.

Fostering a Scholarly Network: International Law and Democratic Theory (Second Four Societies Workshop) will continue a dialogue begun in New Zealand in 2006. It will draw on scholars from five prominent democracies represented in the sponsoring organizations to explore the democratic credentials of international law. A list of topic areas where the tensions between legal processes and democratic theory might be found follows. Proposals should be related to the theme, but do not have to be confined to these topics.

  • The Role of National Legislatures and Policy-makers in the Making and Reception of International Law
  • The Governance of International Organizations
  • Democratic Accountability in the Development of Trade and Investment Law
  • The Application of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in the context of Terrorism
  • The Internationalisation of Criminal Law

Proposals should be submitted by e-mail to each sponsoring organization as follows: