Legal scholars from The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law have contributed to symposia at two US universities analysing the backlash into international law and legal institutions.
The global project explores the challenges posed to the international, rules-based legal order by populist groundswells in a growing number of countries around the world including Brazil, Hungary, Italy, the Philippines and the United States.
This populist challenge is exemplified by a deep scepticism of liberal democratic norms and institutions, and by extension international law and institutions. The project also examines the different ways in which states, including Australia, might respond to this challenge.
The project is an ANU Global Research Partnership with the University of Indiana Bloomington’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, and the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law. It was launched in 2018 at the ANU Law School.
Building on workshops held at the ANU College of Law on 17-18 June, the US symposium series began on 14 October in Bloomington, Indiana, with a keynote lecture by Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG on “International Relations: The Assault on Multilateralism” at the Hamilton Lugar School.
On 15 October, the Indiana University Backlash Workshop explored the contours and consequences of the backlash for international norms and institutions relating to international peace and security, immigration, international humanitarian law, and global economics and development.
ANU College of Law Associate Dean (Research), Associate Professor Jeremy Farrall, explained that the US events seek to understand American perspectives on the project’s themes.
“It is fascinating to see how the discussion of the contours and consequences of backlash at Indiana was shaped by its location in the Mid-West ‘rust belt’, where there is broad dissatisfaction over the loss of jobs that has accompanied recent shifts in global trade,” he said.
While the rise of populism is often attributed to the US (Donald Trump) and UK (Brexit), Australia has also had its own experiences of backlash to international norms and institutions.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned against “negative globalism” in a shift from a 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper outlining Australia’s commitment to international institutions and the rules-based system.
Joining Associate Professor Farrall in the US is fellow international law expert Dr Imogen Saunders, whose research focuses on the backlash to international norms about the use of outer space, and Associate Professor Phillip Drew CD, an expert on the law of armed conflict.
On 16 October, ANU Law academics briefed the Australian Embassy Deputy Head of Mission and ANU Law alumna, Katrina Cooper (BA ’89, LLB ’92, GDFAT ’94, GDLP ‘14), on the project and its deliberations in Canberra and Bloomington.
On 18 October, ANU scholars will present their research and collaborate with counterparts at the Francis King Carey School of Law on the final leg of their tour. Associate Dean (International) and project member, Associate Professor Jolyon Ford, will deliver his paper remotely for the Maryland workshop on the US withdrawal in 2018 from the UN Human Rights Council.