The Annual Kirby Lecture in International Law: International Law and the Provocation of the Digital

Date & time
6–7pm Wednesday 30 June 2021

Online via Zoom

Professor Fleur Johns
Centre for International and Public Law (CIPL)
(02) 6125 5375
Annual event

Part of the Annual Kirby Lecture on International Law series

Professor Fleur Johns

Based in Montevideo, and most recently valued at US$5 billion, the payments platform DLocal enables companies such as, Amazon and Uber to transact in local currencies in 29 countries. It specializes in the “emerging economies” of Latin America, the Asia Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa. Among international lawyers, however, Montevideo is best known for another form of international infrastructure. That is the 1933 Montevideo Convention, or at least its first article, standardising the template of modern statehood. At the time, as scholars of international legal history have shown, this amounted to a radical reformatting of the fundamentals of international law, driven by semi-peripheral states, as part of a widespread effort of reconstructive codification after the Great War. Today, DLocal’s Montevideo is emblematic of a very different kind of international legal reformatting now underway. A digital logic, and associated circuits of value and aggregations of power, are becoming embedded – even predominant – in many of international law’s most routine operations.

To shed light on this phenomenon, this talk will revisit each component of the Montevideo Convention’s well-known formula for statehood – permanent population; defined territory; government; and the conduct of international relations. Taking efforts of so-called digital humanitarianism as illustrative, it will examine how each of these Montevideo properties is being rerouted and recomposed digitally, often in tension with an analog logic characteristic of law. And in the ensuing dislocations sometimes in evidence between analog and digital aspects of international legal work, it will identify some possibilities for collective reworking.


  • Professor Fleur Johns FASSA »

    Fleur Johns is Professor in the Faculty of Law & Justice and an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow at UNSW Sydney. Fleur works on international law and legal theory and her current research focuses on changing modes of lawful relation emerging in the context of digital technology. She is currently concluding an ARC-funded project entitled 'Data Science in Humanitarianism: Confronting Novel Law and Policy Challenges' (with co-CI Wayne Wobcke, UNSW Computer Science), and commencing a new project on knowledges and norms of international diplomacy in the aftermath of natural disaster. In 2021-2022, Fleur will be a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and she has previously held visiting appointments in Europe, the UK, the US and Canada. Fleur serves on editorial boards in the US, the UK and Australia, including that of the American Journal of International Law. Her publications include the following books: The Mekong: A Socio-legal Approach to River Basin Development (Routledge, 2016, with co-authors Boer, Hirsch, Saul and Scurrah); Non-Legality in International Law: Unruly Law (Cambridge, 2013); Events: The Force of International Law (Routledge, 2011, with co-editors Joyce and Pahuja); and International Legal Personality (Ashgate, 2010). She is presently working on a new book, co-authored with Dr. Caroline Compton, entitled #Help: The Digital Transformation of Humanitarianism and the Future of Global Order. Fleur is a graduate of Melbourne University (BA, LLB(Hons)) and Harvard University (LLM, SJD; Menzies Scholar; Laylin Prize), a member of the New York Bar, and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Her Twitter handle is @FleurEJ.


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