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International Law in Times of Transition


Anne Peters

About the Project:

The evolution of the basic principles, procedures, and institutions of international law mirrors the manifold contradictory political and economic phenomena of the present: on the one side we witness a basic defeat of Western attempts to exercise influence in Eastern Europe (Kosovo and Ukraine) and in the Arabic world (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya), Islamist fundamentalisms, the failure of pro-democratic protests and revolts of the Arab spring, the internationalised civil war in Syria, waves of migration, the instability of many states in Africa, regional and global financial crisis and the economic rise of non-Western states. In a seemingly paradoxical movement, the ongoing globalisation of the markets is accompanied by a re-emphasis on classic “westphalian” sovereignty in the sense of autonomy and non-intervention at the expense of the aspect of responsibility. Deformalisation, that is forsaking public international law treaties in favour of informal arrangements is ongoing. This allows quick and flexible regulation but could undermine the normative power of international law.

The starting hypothesis of many research projects on the general problems of international law is that in the face of an increasing interdependence and an intensification of problems of a global nature (terrorism, climate, use of cyberspace, mass movements of people, and not the least pandemics), the ongoing improvement of the effectiveness and legitimacy of international law is an objective of legal policy to which foundational research can contribute.


    Key Publication

  • Anne Peters, Anna Petrig: Völkerrecht: Allgemeiner Teil. 6th edition. Schulthess, Zürich, 2023; C.F. Müller, München, 2023, LXIV+524 p.
  • International law is a dynamic legal field which has been much refined in the past decades and which rsponds to contradictory political and economic trends. The book offers an overview of the historical development and the structures and mechanisms of international law. The focus is on central themes. These comprise the international legal persons, the sources of international law, international organisations, the universal prohibition on the use of force, the maintenance of peace and security by the United Nations, international responsibility and sanctions as well as dispute settlement and immunities.


    Also of interest

  • Ist das Völkerrecht nur eine Illusion? - Interview with Anne Peters. In: Zeit Online, 14.10.2023. Ist das Völkerrecht nur eine Illusion?
  • Guillaume Futhazar, Anne Peters: Good Faith. In: The UN Friendly Relations Declaration at 50 - An Assessment of the Fundamental Principles of International Law, Jorge E. Viñuales (ed.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2020, 189-228.
  • Macht und Ohnmacht des Völkerrechts - Interview mit Anne Peters. In: Merkur, Nr. 840, 18.04.2019, p. 5-16. Macht und Ohnmacht des Völkerrechts
  • Anne Peters: The Rise and Decline of the International Rule of Law and the Job of Scholars. In: The International Rule of Law: Rise or Decline?, Heike Krieger, Georg Nolte, Andreas Zimmermann (eds.). Oxford University Press, Oxford 2019, 56-65.
  • Anne Peters: International Legal Scholarship Under Challenge. In: International Law as a Profession, Jean d’Aspremont, Tarcisio Gazzini, André Nollkaemper, Wouter Werner (eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2017, 117-159.
  • The paper discusses five charges which are raised against international legal scholarship: (1) the charge of epistemic nationalism (that much or all international legal scholarship is (maybe inevitably) determined by the national background of the researcher and therefore suffers from a national bias); (2) the charge that much of international legal scholarship is value-loaded and therefore ideological, ‘moralising’, ‘too’ idealist and utopian (the charge of ideology); (3) the charge that much scholarship is too close and too much influenced by legal practice, and thus too ‘unscholarly’; (4) the charge that much of the research activities are too detached from practice (the charge of social and political irrelevance; (5) the reproach that much of (notably European) international legal scholarship is limits itself to purely internal arguments about legal constructs, interpretation according to the traditional canons, concentrating on legal terms, seeking to systematize and harmonize legal provisions, and commenting on judicial decisions (the charge of doctrinalism).

    The paper concludes that these charges can be successfully met by a pluralist international legal scholarship, needed in the novel period of international law we are living though, a period which is characterised by a high tension between interdependence and globalisation (economic, technical, and cultural) on the one hand, and stark cleavages and fencing (ideational, economic, territorial) among states, on the other hand.

    SSRN version

  • Anne Peters: The Refinement of International Law: From Fragmentation to Regime Interaction and Politicization. In: International Journal of Constitutional Law 15, 671-704 (2017). The Refinement of International Law The Refinement of International Law (PDF, 280.8 KB)
  • Anne Peters: International Organizations and International Law. In: The Oxford Handbook of International Organizations, Jacob Katz Cogan, Ian Hurd (eds.). Oxford University Press, Oxford 2016, 33-59. International Organizations and International Law (PDF, 271.1 KB)
  • This chapter seeks to give an overview of the state of the art of legal thought about international organizations as legal entities in a legal environment. International organizations are legal communities in a threefold sense: They are created by law, they use law as a means of governance, and they should be governed by the rule of law. Accordingly, international law constitutes, enables, and constrains international organizations. I will show that (with some simplification) legal scholarship until the 1990s was primarily concerned with the constituting and enabling function of the law (thus securing the effectiveness of international organizations), while the more recent legal concern is the constraining function of the law (thus improving the accountability of international organizations). In the procedural law of organizations, a triad of accountability procedures has been built: transparency, participation, and access to information.

  • Anne Peters, Isabelle Ley (eds.): The Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in Europe. Nomos, Baden-Baden, 2016, 342 p.
  • This volume presents an accessible overview over the current state of the legislation on the freedom of assembly in eleven selected member states of the Venice Commission: the UK, France, the US, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, the Russian Federation, the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and Tunisia. The volume may serve as a work of reference for the researcher or practitioner who seeks specific information on the legal bases, restrictions, or implementation of the freedom of assembly in a specific country or on more recent themes such as the legal implications of flashmobs. It is also a helpful starting point for anyone interested in comparing the state of assembly legislation in Europe and beyond. Next to information on details of the domestic regulation of assemblies, each study contains information on recent events, changes and debates on the laws on assemblies. Examples are the handling of the Arab spring in Tunisia, freedom of assembly-implications and management of the Gezi Park protests in Turkey, or the constitutional upheavals in the Ukraine.

  • Fatiha Sahli, Adelmalek El Ouazzani, Anne Peters (eds.): Droit et mouvements sociaux: quelles interactions? Le cas des révoltes dans le monde arabe. Presses de l´Université Toulouse 1 Capitole, Toulouse, 2017, 241 p.
  • Les événements survenus dans les pays arabes depuis 2011 soulèvent une fois de plus la question du rapport dialectique entre le droit et les mouvements sociaux. Les mouvements ont emprunté les voies légales, celles des partis politiques, ou des associations de la société civile, et se sont également traduits par des mouvements de rue.

    Ces mouvements ont questionné aussi le système juridique international. L´ambigüité dans les positions prises au niveau international, notamment «  au nom de la communauté internationale », et les différentes interprétations adoptées (le cas libyen) posent la question du rôle de l`ONU dans la gestion des conflits internes et le respect des principes fondamentaux du droit international.

    L´ouvrage examine des « avancées » et des « reculs » effectués par les divers mouvements sociaux, l´hétérogénéité des priorités avancées, et l´impact géopolitique des mutations, surtout dans les rapports des pays arabes avec leurs voisions.

  • Anne Peters: Has the Advisory Opinion’s Finding that Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence was not Contrary to International Law set an Unfortunate Precedent?. In: The Law and Politics of the Kosovo Advisory Opinion, Marko Milanović, Michael Wood (eds.). Oxford University Press, Oxford 2015, 291-313. SSRN version
  • Anne Peters: Par-delà la hiérarchie des ordres juridiques - Le pluralisme ordonné vu d'Allemagne. In: Traité des rapports entre ordres juridiques, Baptiste Bonnet (ed.). LGDJ, Issy-les-Moulineaux 2016, 1631-1651. Peters_Par-delà la hiérarchie des ordres juridiques (PDF, 11988.1 KB)
  • Anne Peters: The Rise and Decline of the International Rule of Law and the Job of Scholars. In: MPIL Research Paper Series No. 2017-16 (2017). SSRN version
  • International law feeds on preconditions which it cannot guarantee itself. International scholarship, too, must come to grips with pre-conditions and existing parameters over which it has no control itself. But such scholarship must not ‘succumb’ to these factual and ideational realities by adapting its methods and findings to any given political, social, and economic climate. It is the job of international legal scholars to produce ideas in a spirit of realist utopianism (John Rawls). Depending on the existing parameters, these ideas are apt to shape attitudes and actions, or not. Such scholarship also needs to distance itself from its object of study in order not to lose its capacity to criticise the law and the practice. How far exactly scholarly writing should transcend or keep aloof from the prevailing political climate and from concerns of feasibility depends on the research questions under discussion and is a matter of judgment.

    The style of scholarship suggested here is illustrated by the work of three eminent scholars whose careers continued through different political eras more or less favourable to the international rule of law: Hersch Lauterpacht, Antonio Cassese, and Josef Kunz.

  • Anne Peters: Populist International Law? The Suspended Independence and the Normative Value of the Referendum on Catalonia. EJIL Talk! Blog of the European Journal of International Law, 12 October 2017. Populist International Law?
  • Anne Peters: After Trump: China and Russia move from norm-takers to shapers of the international legal order. EJIL Talk! Blog of the European Journal of International Law, 10 November 2016. After Trump: China and Russia move from norm-takers to shapers of the international legal oder
  • Anne Peters: New German Constitutional Court Decision on “Treaty Override”: Triepelianism Continued. EJIL Talk! Blog of the European Journal of International Law, 29 February 2016. New German Constitutional Court Decision on "Treaty Override"