While the scope and influence of global governance in the exercise of public and private power continues apace, the phenomenon remains poorly understood. As a descriptive matter, the era of globalization and new modes of integration between state and non-state actors in all areas of economic, social and political life have led international lawyers to move beyond traditional conceptions of "public" international law. As global governance has become more dense and come more directly to affect the interests of individuals, groups and corporations, the older notion of a law made consensually between states and by public international organizations created by states and subject to their control has given way to more complex and ambitious accounts of "transnational," "supranational," and "global" law. Similarly, as a normative matter the older Westphalian picture of inter-sovereign law has been radically disrupted over the last half-century by the rise of cosmopolitan norms of universal justice and human rights.

This symposium seeks critically to examine the relationship between international law and global governance in the context of these parallel developments. Some today argue that the reality of so much transnational administration through new types of globalized regulation such as international organizations, transnational networks, cooperative regimes, hybrid intergovernmental-private arrangements and private institutions with regulatory functions, means that we should abandon the classical dichotomy between the administrative space of national polities on the one hand and inter-state coordination in global governance on the other. These scholars contend that we should recognize instead the emergence of a new "global administrative space" distinct from the space of inter-state relations governed by international law and the domestic regulatory space governed by domestic administrative law.

If so, how would such a notion of global law with its express inclusion of informal institutional arrangements and other normative practices and sources not encompassed within traditional conceptions of international law be developed and what exactly is at stake in this project? What political choices are involved in this way of viewing global governance? Is the domestic analogy to national legal principles of accountability, participation, review, transparency and reason-giving in an effort to channel and control exercises of power and regulation beyond the state merely an attempt to escape politics and the deeper underlying inequalities and structures of domination in the international political order? Even if effective, would such conceptions of global law ensure that globalization may be more reasoned but not necessarily more just or democratic?

These questions will be discussed over three panels, the first examining the rise of the notion of global environmental law and the prospects for a new global climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to be held in December; the second reflecting, especially in the context of the current global economic crisis, on existing structures and regimes which regulate international economic, trade and financial actors and interests; and the third assessing the trajectory, in both normative and institutional terms, of the relationship between traditional conceptions of international law and multilateralism and emerging conceptions of global law and governance.

Sponsored by the International & Comparative Law Program.

Browse the contents of Multilateralism and Global Law: Evolving Conceptions of International Law and Governance, October 22-23, 2009: