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2009 International Law Association (British Branch) Spring Conference


17th April 2009

Call for Papers

Since the creation of the United Nations in 1945, international law has sought to configure itself as a universal system. And yet, despite the best efforts of international institutions, scholars and others to exert the universal application of international law, its relevance and applicability has been influenced, if not directed, by political power. The Cold War saw a concentration on co-existence in a bi-polar world, which many have argued brought stability to the international legal system. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 provided the opportunity for a truly universal system - a 'new world order', applicable regardless of power arrangements. Instead, it quickly became apparent that international law would have to address the dilemmas inherent in regulating a system dominated by a single global power.

Over the past decade, discourse has tended to focus on the implications for international law of a unipolar world, characterised by US hegemony. It would seem, however, that the international system may now be experiencing a tendency towards multipolarity, with various sites of power able to exert a telling influence on international relations and international law. Recent events such as Russia's excursion into Georgia, the breakdown of the Doha round of trade negotiations, the USA's questionable actions in the war on terror, the prominence of emerging nuclear powers, China's assertions of its own interests on a global scale, and the rise of regional trading blocs, all pose significant questions for international law and the international legal order. Can 'universal' international law exist in the absence of a global hegemon? To what extent can sovereign equality persist in a world of competing 'great powers' and 'spheres of influence'? What relevance will the United Nations retain? Is there an 'international community' and, if so, does it exist on a multilateral or a regional level?

The 2009 ILA (British Branch) Spring Conference will seek to address these, and other, questions that a multipolar world poses for international law.

Proposals are sought for papers on topics of interest within the conference theme. All international lawyers - practitioners, academics and doctoral students - regardless of seniority, institutional affiliation, gender or nationality, are invited to submit proposals. Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be submitted by Friday 12th December 2008. Submissions should include the author's name and contact details (including email address), and be accompanied by a brief curriculum vitae.

Applications should be sent, preferably by email to, or by post to Dr Matthew Happold, Law School, University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX. The results of the selection process will be notified to applicants in January 2009.


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