International Law Association Study Group


The Role of Cities in International Law
As part of The Global City Project, in 2017, project leader Janne Nijman initiated the establishment of a new Study Group of the International Law Association (ILA) entitled ‘The Role of Cities in International Law’, together with Prof. Helmut Aust, Freie Universität, Berlin. Together, they chair the Study Group. Anouche Beaudouin and Jolene Lin are co-rapporteurs.

Global cities and international law
Globalisation, urbanisation, and decentralisation are three global trends that contribute to the internationalisation of the city, Nijman recently argued in ‘The Renaissance of the City as Global Actor (2016)’. Cities are stepping onto the international stage as global actors. In the field of Climate Change the Paris agreement is the latest case in point, but similar developments are visible in the fields of human rights, migration, and human security. This points to a changing role of cities within the international legal order. This changing role demands close examination by a group of international legal experts; the new ILA Study Group is an excellent place to do exactly that.

Questions the SG will deal with include:

  • What is the impact of the internationalisation of the city on the international legal order?
  • How is the changing international legal order impacting the world’s cities?
  • To what extent is international law starting to define the legal status and government of cities?
  • Are there specific problems attached to the role of cities as objects of international law?
  • Have cities become accepted as subjects of international law?

In the coming years, the Asser Institute will report on the work of the Study Group on its website as well as at the Institute’s website and The Global City Project website.

Informal Kick-off in 2017
In November 2017, we enjoyed a first informal kick-off meeting at the Asser Institute where we were joined by the eminent Saskia Sassen, Professor of Sociology (Columbia University). Professor Saskia Sassen is one of the world’s most prominent scholars on global cities (including cities and terrorism), migration, digital technologies and society, and the implications of economic globalisation for nation-states and international law. She is the author of the seminal book ‘The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo’ (1991). On 30 November 2017, Prof. Sassen delivered the Third Annual T.M.C. Asser Lecture at the Peace Palace in The Hague, entitled ‘When the law cannot recognize extreme injustice even if it affects millions’. The lecture is available here, and a shorter version with the highlights is available here.

Saskia Sassen, Asser Senior Researcher Geoff Gordon, and Helmut Aust during the informal kick-off meeting of the ILA Study Group.

Left to right: Anouche Beaudouin, Asser PhD Lisa Roodenburg, Janne Nijman, Asser PhD Miha Marcenco, and Saskia Sassen

International Law Association
The International Law Association was founded in Brussels in 1873. It has a membership of around 4000 international lawyers around the world. Its objectives, under its Constitution, are ‘the study, clarification and development of international law, both public and private, and the furtherance of international understanding and respect for international law’. Study Groups of the ILA are established to allow quick responses to urgent questions, and consist of small groups of recognized international law experts.