The Modern Actors of International Law exposes you to a cutting-edge topic in international legal research and practice: non-state actors and their role, status, rights and obligations under international law. The module discusses international law theories to understand whether and how non-state actors are accommodated within a discipline traditionally aiming to regulate the relations between states. Next, it explores international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law to unearth the legal framework of international organizations, armed groups and corporations as well as avenues to hold them accountable for violations.
Module will run
Spring Term 2021-22
Non-state actors are omnipresent on the international stage influencing and participating in international legal processes including in international law-making, adjudication and law-enforcement. The module takes stock of this modern international context and aims to examine the status and accountability framework of non-state actors in international law, a body of law traditionally charged with regulating the relations between states. We will explore whether the rights of non-state actors and their power to influence international law processes come with international obligations and whether such obligations can be enforced at international and/or domestic levels. The module discusses in depth three case studies of considerable contemporary relevance: international organizations, non-state armed groups and corporations and their accountability under international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law.
Modern Actors of International Law will enable you to appreciate the changing reality of international law and evaluate the benefits and complex challenges brought about by the participation of non-state actors in international legal processes. It will foster your analytical skills, critical thinking and creative problem-solving abilities.
Module learning outcomes
By the end of the course, you should be able to:
Demonstrate a deep understanding of fundamental concepts of international law;
Distinguish among the international law governing international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law;
Critically engage with theories of acquisition of rights and obligations under international law;
Explain and critically evaluate the international legal framework regulating the actions of international organizations, armed groups and corporations;
Explore avenues for holding international organizations, armed groups and corporations accountable in international and domestic forums;
Critically assess the participation of selected non-state actors in international legal processes.
Lectures and seminars will include the following topics:
Refresher on the fundamentals of international law - What are the sources of international law? What is the relation between the various branches of international law? What is the relation between international law and domestic jurisdictions?
Types and roles of non-states actors under international law - How are non-state actors defined? What types of non-state actors exist? What roles do they play in international law?
Theories of acquisition of rights and obligations under international law.
The legal framework of international organizations, non-state armed groups and corporations, respectively, and avenues to hold them accountable for international law violations.
Lectures will entail Q&A sessions and students will receive feedback on their answers from fellow students and the lecturer. Seminars will entail ‘flipping the classroom’ exercises and feedback will be provided by the lecturer.
Feedback on the presentation will be provided in writing one week after the presentation.
Feedback on the essay will be provided in writing within three weeks after the submission date.
Jean d’Aspremont (ed), Participants in the International Legal System: Multiple Perspectives on Non-State Actors in International Law (Routledge 2011).
Andrew Clapham, Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors (OUP 2006)
Noemi Gal-Or, Cedric Ryngaert, Math Noortmann (eds), Responsibilities of the Non-state Actor in Armed Conflict and the Market Place: Theoretical Considerations and Empirical Findings (Brill 2015).
It is strongly recommended that you read an introductory text on international law. For example, Jan Klabbers, International Law (2nd ed, CUP 2017).