[Annual Report 2021] Rethinking public interests - Reflecting on the role of law in contemporary global challenges

Published 4 August 2022


The Asser Institute Annual Report 2021 is available online. The report reflects on the activities of the past year and highlights the impact and diversity of the research, training, publications and education.

In our Annual Report 2021 we look back at a year packed with innovative research, new collaborations, events, and publications. The pressing challenges we are facing - such as climate change, ecocide, transnational terrorism, unsustainable capitalism, a growing social inequality, the digital divide, global migration - came into sharper focus during the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite numerous lockdowns and restrictions that ultimately resulted in the postponement of our hallmark Asser Institute Annual Lecture by Brigid Laffan to early 2022, our research community continued to produce impactful research and deliver innovative education.

Sharing knowledge to help solve global challenges
The global challenges we are facing require complex and holistic solutions where law can be a critical component. We have organised more than fifty well-visited online conferences, webinars and training programmes in 2021 in order to share our knowledge and research to this end. A silver lining of the many lockdowns and the shift to online interaction last year was that we were able to accommodate attendees from all over the globe at our events, such as the workshop series on Method, Methodology and Critique in International Law led by Associate fellow Dimitri Van Den Meerssche that attracted hundreds of international participants.

Growing research impact
Beyond more than 53 academic publications, Asser Institute researchers engaged with the ongoing discussion further publishing some 31 op-eds, policy briefs and blog posts. In The Huffington Post, for instance, Rebecca Mignot-Mahdavi criticised the identification techniques used by the French army for a lethal drone airstrike in Mali, on the basis of the law of armed conflict. In the British newspaper The Guardian, Berenice Boutin warned about the potentially dangerous consequences of the EU’s expanding investments in artificial intelligence. Our new research fellow Ahmad Nader Nadery, one of Afghanistan’s top peace negotiators in peace talks with the Taliban, spoke to the New York Times about his role as negotiator and his reaction to the seizing of Kabul by the Taliban.

Weapons of mass destruction and arms control
The war in Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin’s frequent reminders of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, have highlighted the dangers of a new nuclear era. In 2021, Thilo Marauhn, was appointed to the endowed chair on international arms control law established with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Arms control law is a technically highly specialised area of law, but vital for national and international security. The Asser Institute is aiming to play a key part in arms control education with a series of doctoral workshops in 2022.

‘[T]he standing to compete with the best and largest departments on international and European law’
An external committee assessed the research quality, relevance to society and viability of our work at the Asser Institute. Evaluating our work from 2016-2019, the committee concluded that ‘[t]he Asser Institute is now an academic research institute on international and European law, that has the standing to compete with the best and largest departments on international and European law at law faculties in the Netherlands.’

All in all, 2021 also saw the creation of masterclasses oriented to professionals, new staff and doctoral students join the research community as well as new cooperation agreements with the University of Amsterdam, and the launch of exciting new projects such as NWA’s ELSA Lab Defense project. The continued efforts of our researchers, colleagues and students drives the innovative and impactful work at the Asser Institute. And we continue to build on this momentum in 2022.