Contemporary reality is confoundingly complex: it is marked by rapidly evolving technologies, increasing global interconnectedness, rising population, and deepening understanding of science and the environment. New international actors; changes in social, economic, and political dynamics; a multipolar power structure; and novel security threats only add to the complexity. Amidst this confusion, international law can be a source of order and clarity. It can provide frameworks to peacefully resolve disputes, regulate relations between different actors, and clarify rights and obligations. It can foster technological development and facilitate exchanges of knowledge and goods. It is no surprise that managing global financial crises, protecting global commons, responding to conflicts spilling across borders, and guaranteeing public health and safety have all been added to international law’s purview. In our crowded, connected world, civil uprisings, financial collapses, natural and human-caused disasters are no longer domestic crises: they are global crises.
While international law has at times been quite creative in response to these problems, whether it is fully up to the task remains an open question. International law can actually exacerbate complexity with conflicting or unclear rules, uncertain enforcement, and overlapping and competing jurisdiction. International law must demonstrate the flexibility to embrace new issues, to look beyond the State, and to integrate new players (who may not follow its rules). Transparency, accountability, and participation must be guaranteed in new private regulatory regimes, shorn from State control. The instruments and processes of international law must provide means for scientific evidence to be sifted, understood, and translated into law. And yet, even as it adapts, international law must also remain a force for stability and predictability.
Which problems is international law particularly well-suited to solve? Which seem to defy its regulation? What tools does international law have to manage this complexity? Where are best practices emerging? What has our profession learned in the last half-century? Is law, with its emphasis on rules and stability, conceptually and functionally capable of responding to the challenges of complexity? If not, how should law react? What do experts from outside the legal profession, from technology, finance, counterinsurgency, climate science, and risk, believe law can add? During the 2012 ASIL Annual Meeting we will address these questions and discuss how international law responds to complexity.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Conference: ASIL Annual Meeting 2012
The 106th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law will take place March 28-31, 2012, in Washington, DC. The theme is "Confronting Complexity." The program is not yet available, but online registration is now open. Here's the idea: