Do 05 Nov 2015

Sa 07 Nov 2015
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstraße 14, 14193 Berlin

The Battles for International Law in the Decolonization Era, 1955-1975

Forum Transregionale Studien/Max Weber Stiftung in Kooperation mit Prof. Dr. Philipp Dann (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) und Prof. Dr. Jochen von Bernstorff (Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen)

Workshop report

In the era of decolonisation (1955-1975) fundamental legal debates took place within the United Nations over an international legal order for a decolonised world. The decolonised South fundamentally challenged the Western-dominated international law. The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s witnessed the emergence of key multilateral treaties, such as the two international human rights covenants, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the Vienna conventions on state succession und the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In addition, central principles of existing international law such as sovereignty, non-intervention, self-determination as well as the central tenets of international economic law were subjected to significant controversy within the United Nations. These debates and their Third World protagonists as well as the propagated new concepts have often been portrayed as a short-lived utopian or socialist (Cold War-) revolt within the UN General Assembly with ultimately minor and negligible implications for international law and legal scholarship.

The workshop and book project aimed at a historical re-examination of this battle for international in the era of decolonisation. It could be argued that the emergence of a fundamental critique of the international legal order and its emanations was not only shaped by North-South and East-West antagonism but also produced genuine novel concepts as well as new interpretations of central international legal terms, which are worth to be re-discovered. Not only is it of great interest to explore and assess the critical potential of the arguments advanced in this struggle within the UN, but also how international legal scholarship reacted to, and in its turn influenced, these controversies. Contributions from the 1960s and 1970s by the first generation of Third World international legal scholars are therefore of central importance for the project. Through a combination of biographical and thematic legal-historical sketches the workshop aimed at resurrecting the battle for international law in the decolonization era.  


Jochen Von Bernstorff (Tübingen)
Philipp Dann (Berlin)
Prabhakar Singh (Singapore)
Isabel Feichtner (Frankfurt)
Rotem Giladi (Jerusalem)
Alexandra Kemmerer (Berlin / Heidelberg)
Bill Bowring (London)
Matthew Craven (London)
Luis Eslava (Kent)
Surabhi Ranganathan (Warwick)
Ingo Venzke (Amsterdam)
Muthucumarswamy Sornarajah (Singapore)
Carl Landauer (US)
Anne Orford (Melbourne)
Sundhya Pahuja (Melbourne / London)
Guy Sinclair (New Zealand)
Umut Özsu (Canada)
Martti Koskenniemi (Helsinki)