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After Ukraine and Gaza, how should we think about the power of international law? Does it have any? This talk will examine the different ways in which international law as a professional language, a set of institutions and practices, frames and informs the life of international actors. International law is not only, or even predominantly something that those actors “use” to advance their interests (though it is that, too). Its principal power lies in the way it lays down the conditions in which some groups are qualified or disqualified as “actors” as well as canvasses the rules of diplomatic, commercial and belligerent behaviour they should follow to qualify as “lawful”. Owing to the open-endedness of those rules, international law has recently come to intervene powerfully in the daily practice of international political contestation. Instead of absent from the world of power, international has come to legalize the way we address it.

Speaker - Professor Martti Koskenniemi

Martti Koskenniemi is Professor Emeritus of International law at the University of Helsinki. He is a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has worked as diplomat with the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and was a member of the International Law Commission (UN) in 2002-2006. He has held several visiting professorships across the world. He has received honorary doctorates from the universities of Uppsala, McGill, Frankfurt, Tartu, Brussels (VUB) and the European University Institute (EUI, Florence). His main publications include From Apology to Utopia; The Structure of International Legal Argument (1989/2005), The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870-1960 (2001) and To the Uttermost Parts of the Earth: Legal Imagination and International Power 1300-1870 (2021). His most recent publication is a joint work with Professor David Kennedy (Harvard), Of Law and the World. Critical Conversations on Power, History and Political Economy (2023).

Chair - Dr Maria Varaki

Dr Maria Varaki is a Lecturer in International Law at the War Studies Department, King's College London, and co-director of the War Crimes Research Group. Before moving to London, she held posts at the Erik Castren Institute of International Law and Human Rights in Helsinki, Kadir Has University in Istanbul, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the iCourts Centre at the University of Copenhagen. Additionally, she has worked for the OHCHR in Geneva, the UNHCR in New York and the Legal Advisory section of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

At this event

Maria Varaki

Lecturer in International Law

Event details

Bush House Lecture Theatre 1 BH(S)1.01
Bush House
Strand campus, 30 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BG