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Navigating the Backlash against Global Law and Institutions

Author(s): Jeremy Farrall, Jolyon Ford, Imogen Saunders

This article considers the recent ‘Backlash’ against global norms and institutions fuelled by various contemporary political developments within and between states. Understanding the shape, significance and drivers of this phenomenon better is a pre-requisite to developing and analysing possible responses by Australia and other states. The recent rise of populism and ‘illiberal democracy’ especially within major Western democracies has challenged the longstanding and widespread commitment of those states to the rules-based order. These phenomena have also eroded the traditional global leadership, in multilateral forums, of key powers including UN permanent members the United States and the United Kingdom. The populations of these and other states have responded to perceptions of economic and political disempowerment by pressuring political representatives to focus their energies domestically. In order both to appeal and respond to domestic political forces, leaders in these states have sought to target or sometimes scapegoat the international institutions that have hitherto been so useful to their foreign policy agenda. This article examines the consequences of understanding the current populist moment as part of a Backlash against global law and institutions and the ramifications of the Backlash frame for international peace and security. It also considers the implications of the Backlash frame for the international human rights system, the impact of the turn inward for global trade and finance and the Backlash against environmental norms.

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Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, International Law, Law and Technology, Law, Governance and Development, Legal History and Ethnology, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy

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