How international law shapes the world

6 February 2013

The world should abandon many international environmental treaties and start afresh if it wishes to deal with the myriad of environmental issues it faces in the 21st century, environmental lawyer Associate Professor Tim Stephens from the Sydney Law School suggests.

Associate Professor Stephens is one of four international lawyers from the Sydney Centre for International Law (SCIL) who has prepared a short video presentation (above) summarising his thoughts on how the law should deal with the environment to mark the centre's 10th anniversary.

The videos - rolling out in the lead up to SCIL's inaugural International Law Year in Review conference and the tenth anniversary of SCIL's founding - present succinct and engaging takes on some key international law issues facing the world.

"SCIL is a hub for an extraordinary cross-section of ideas about contemporary global affairs, and different ways of approaching them", says Associate Professor Fleur Johns, SCIL Co-Director, "and we wanted to give people a taste of these".

"These videos venture into hotly debated terrain," Johns continues, "climate change, political resistance, the way that we think about global violence and human displacement for development. The range of expertise and professional experience among SCIL associates has allowed us to develop thoughtful, well-informed perspectives".

Aside from Associate Professor Stephens' proposition to radically overhaul international environmental pacts, Professor Ben Saul posits that international law post 9/11 has eroded the human right to resist oppressive governments.

Elsewhere, Associate Professor Fleur Johns uses the example of a sub-machine gun's legal crafting to demonstrate how international law shapes our understandings of violence, technology and politics. Irene Baghoomians' presentation discusses how the law should do more to address the plight of forced evictees in Nepal, drawing attention to the human costs of development.

"Those working at SCIL are in regular dialogue with governments, NGOs and others working in the international arena," Johns says. "At the same time, we want to engage people in a broader public conversation about what international law does do, what it doesn't do, and what it might do in the future. We hope that these videos will elicit some new entrants into that conversation".

The International Law Year in Review conference is on Friday 22 February.

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