The 2016 theme reflects an enduring question: the concept of authority in international law. That the international legal system is a legal system properly socalled should by now be an accepted fact: even if not always and universally enforced, the validity of international legal rules functions itself as a reason for compliance, quite independently of the nature or character of the actions to be done. The legitimacy of international law, therefore, derives from more than the consent to be bound.
However, the systematic character of international law raises a number of interesting questions: what are the formal characteristics of international law that justify our understanding of it as an autonomous legal system? Who are the institutions, officials and agents that are endowed with the authority to interpret, apply, and enforce international law? What is the role of international lawyers in the construction of authority in the international legal system? Our technical fluency in the vocabulary of international law positions us not only as the custodians of the international legal order, but also enables us to speak out on behalf of international law in many distinct areas of international relations. Accordingly, international lawyers go beyond serving as judges, arbitrators, and advocates: often, they participate in mandates which exceed the strict remit of legal expertise, serving on fact-finding missions, commissions of enquiry, or diplomatic negotiations. International lawyers bask, therefore, in the reflected authority of the international legal system they themselves have worked to construct and to sustain.
Another point to consider is the nature of non-legal expertise, and how the international legal system grapples with claims to non-legal authority. The obvious, most illustrative examples relate to international lawyers’ grappling with scientific or technical expertise, most prominently at the WTO but increasingly in judicial institutions of general jurisdiction. It might also be asked whether international lawyers should more broadly embrace such external expertise, and what the impact might be upon their authority in doing so? How are claims to expertise cognised, evaluated or legitimated within the practice of international law? Has the emergence of increasingly complex disputes led to intervenors/amici curiae becoming an indispensable element of international legal proceedings? Can lawyers still ‘go it alone’ without the aid and assistance of technical, scientific or academic expertise, or does the authority of the legal system diminish in relation to its claims to autonomy?
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Conference: 25th Annual SLS-BIICL Conference on Theory and International Law
On April 25, 2016, the Society of Legal Scholars, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL), and the European Society of International Law’s Interest Group on International Legal Theory will hold the 25th Annual SLS-BIICL Conference on Theory and International Law, at the BIICL. The theme is: "Beyond Our Comfort Zone? Situating the Authority of International Lawyers, Institutions, & Other International Actors." The program is here. Here's the idea: