Lecture: A new genealogy of international organisations law, Dr. Guy Fiti Sinclair (Victoria University of Wellington), Finley Library Lauterpacht Centre, 12 October 2017, 5.00pm-7.00pm
The lecture will examine the emergence and evolution of international organisations (IOs) law in the second half of the twentieth century. Standard historical narratives of that (sub)discipline remain strongly Eurocentric, tracing the beginnings of modern IOs to the ‘move to institutions’ at the end of World War I (with a nod toward the river commissions and public international unions of the nineteenth century), and attributing the construction of IOs law itself to a small group of European scholars in the decades following World War II. In contrast, this lecture will propose an alternative critical genealogy of IOs law as a postcolonial phenomenon. To Western jurists, decolonisation represented a threat to international peace and to the unity and universality of international law; IOs law promised to buttress the institutions that would midwife the birth of new states, tutor them into full maturity, and knit together an emerging world community.
Moreover, the elaboration of IOs law was also propelled to a significant (and thus far under-acknowledged) extent by non-Western jurists who perceived the new multilateral system as cutting across the old imperial structure of international relations, thereby advancing anti-colonial objectives, and saw the potential for IOs to serve as vehicles of decolonisation and postcolonial state-building. The lecture will examine the writings of both groups of jurists against the background of IO practice and a growing body of decisions of the International Court of Justice addressing aspects of IOs’ functioning and powers, many arising out of circumstances of decolonisation. The lecture will conclude by reflecting on how the postcolonial history of IOs law helps to explain the current crisis of confidence in international institutions and anxieties about the future of multilateralism.
Guy Fiti Sinclair joined the Law Faculty of Victoria University of Wellington in 2014. Prior to this he earned BA, LLB (Hons) and LLM (First Class Hons) degrees from the University of Auckland, and a JSD (Doctor of Juridical Science; PhD equivalent) from New York University. His scholarships and prizes include a Fulbright Graduate Award, the Gordon Watson Scholarship, the Spencer Mason Travelling Scholarship in Law, and the Fowlds Memorial Prize (awarded to the most distinguished Masters student in Law at the University of Auckland). Before undertaking his doctoral studies, Guy worked for over ten years as a corporate and commercial lawyer in a variety of private practice and in-house roles. In 2011, he completed an internship with the Legal Department of the World Bank in Washington, DC.
Guy’s principal area of teaching and research is public international law, with a focus on the law of international organisations, the history and theory of international law, and law and global governance. His book, To Reform the World: The Legal Powers of International Organizations and the Making of Modern States, was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. In 2016, he was appointed Senior Fellow (Melbourne Law Masters) at Melbourne Law School, and in 2017 he was appointed External Scientific Fellow of the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European and Regulatory Procedural Law. He is an Associate Director of the New Zealand Centre for Public Law and the Associate Editor of the European Journal of International Law.