[New website] Launch of the ILA Study Group’s website on cities and international law

Published 12 February 2021

People walking on a busy street (©ShutterStock) 

Cities are on the rise and play an important role in the international legal order. This interaction is the focus of the International Law Association (ILA) Study Group. The Freie Universität Berlin and the T.M.C. Asser Instituut have published the first selection of city reports on international law. These six reports can be accessed on the newly launched ‘global cities’ website.

The first city reports on Arusha (Tanzania), Graz (Austria), Lagos (Nigeria), Toruń (Poland), Vienna (Austria) and Prague (Czech Republic) offer insightful reflections on the dynamics between cities and international law. The reports on Lagos and Arusha depict cities’ crucial role as spaces for the institutions and processes of international law, historically and today. The case of Toruń shows that medium-sized cities also uphold unique relations with international organisations such as UNESCO and the World Health Organization. UN-cities such as Vienna have strong connections to international law and engage with it through a wide variety of topics. Contrastingly, the reports on Prague and Graz focus on one particular city practice. The contribution on Prague assesses the local government’s involvement in the progressive ‘Pact of free cities’ and the report on Graz examines the local government’s commitment to the ‘human rights city’ label.

Cities and international law
The relation between international law and cities has been receiving more and more attention in recent years. Scholars write about the different ways in which local governments invoke the norms of international law and how they connect with other urban actors in doing so. They write about city networks that organise around international legal norms embedded in, for instance, UN conventions on gender equality or the Paris Climate Agreement, and discuss the relation between local governments and international organisations. Hence, the relation between cities and international law is multifaceted and can take many forms.

Ongoing call
To get a better overview of cities’ engagement with international law the ILA study group on the role of cities in international law has launched a city reporting project. The study group circulated an ongoing call for contributions, with the aim to collect empirical insights into this matter. The city reports describe and/or critically assess city practices, in particular of local governments, in relation to international law, on cities’ engagement with other cities, international organisations and/or global governance mechanisms.

Now that the first reports have been published, the study group aims to expand the selection to encompass cities from all over the world. Information on how to contribute to this project.

Visit: the Global Cities website

About the study group
The study group on the changing role of cities in the international legal order officially began its work at the 2018 biannual ILA conference in Sydney. At the ILA conference, a panel discussion on the theme of ‘Cities at the frontiers of international law and global governance’ was organised. The study group is co-chaired by Janne Nijman, T.M.C. Asser Instituut, and Helmut Aust, Freie Universität Berlin.

About Janne Nijman
Prof. Mr. Dr Janne Nijman is chairperson of the executive board and academic director of the Asser Institute.