The pandemic paradox in international law

Presented by ANU College of Law

COVID-19 has given rise to a series of challenges in international law intersecting with patriotism, borders and equality. These paradoxes have rendered the international legal order's mechanisms for collective action powerless precisely when they are most needed to fight the pandemic. The 'patriotism paradox' is that disengagement from the international legal order weakens rather than strengthens state sovereignty. The 'border paradox' is that securing domestic populations by excluding non-citizens, in the absence of regulatory mechanisms to secure adherence to internal health measures, accelerates viral spread among citizens. The 'equality paradox' is that while pandemics pose an equal threat to all people, their impacts compound existing inequalities.

Join us as we explore these issues with Professor Hilary Charlesworth AM, FAAL, FASSA (University of Melbourne, ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance); Associate Professor Jeremy Farrall and Dr Imogen Saunders (ANU College of Law); and moderator Professor Anthea Roberts (ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance). 

This event will examine the contours and consequences of these paradoxes and discuss how international law and legal institutions can navigate populist-driven threats. This virtual discussion draws on an upcoming article to be published in The American Journal of International Law in October 2020 co-authored by two of our panellists - Dr Imogen Saunders and Associate Professor Jeremy Farrall - as well as Professor Peter G. Danchin (University of Maryland) and Professor Shruti Rana (Indiana University Bloomington), as part of the ANU Global Research Partnerships Project 'Navigating the Backlash against Global Law and Institutions'.


  • Associate Professor Jeremy Farrall »


    Jeremy Farrall is Associate Dean (Research) at the ANU College of Law and Associate Professor in the ANU Law School. 

    Dr Farrall has worked for the United Nations in a range of capacities, serving as a Political Affairs Officer for the UN Security Council at UN Headquarters in New York (2001-2004) and for the UN Mission in Liberia (2004-2006). He was also a UN Facilitator for the UN Secretary-General's Good Offices team that mediated peace talks in Cyprus (2004, 2008). 

    He has been Chief Investigator on two major Australian Research Council Grants. His ARC Discovery Project 'Leveraging Power and Influence on the UN Security Council' (2015-2020, with Chris Michaelsen, Jochen Prantl and Jeni Whalan) is a cross-institutional, cross-disciplinary collaboration between the University of New South Wales and the ANU. His ARC Linkage Project 'Strengthening the Rule of Law through the United Nations Security Council' (2011-2014, with Hilary Charlesworth) was a collaboration between the ANU Centre for International Governance and Justice and the Australian Government's Australian Civil-Military Centre.

  • Dr Imogen Saunders »

    PhD '13


    Dr Imogen Saunders completed her undergraduate degrees in law and science at the University of Western Australia, and was awarded her PhD from the Australian National University in 2013.

    Imogen teaches and researches in public international law. She is interested in the application of international law to new areas, the rule of law in times of change, the history of international law and sources of international law. She is currently working on projects on international law and social media, backlashes against international law, and the history of women in international law.

    Imogen teaches international law and international trade law in the LLB/JD and LLM programs. She is currently the Director of Teaching and Learning at the ANU College of Law.

  • Professor Hilary Charlesworth AM, FAAL, FASSA »


    Hilary Charlesworth is a Melbourne Laureate Professor at Melbourne Law School. She is also a Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University. Her research includes the structure of the international legal system, peacebuilding, human rights law and international humanitarian law, international legal theory, particularly feminist approaches to international law and the art of international law. Hilary received the American Society of International Law's award for creative legal scholarship for her book, co-authored with Christine Chinkin, The Boundaries of International Law. She was also awarded, with Christine Chinkin, the American Society of International Law's Goler T. Butcher award for 'outstanding contributions to the development or effective realization of international human rights law'. Hilary has held both an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship (2005-2010) and an ARC Laureate Fellowship (2010-2015).

    Hilary has been a visiting professor at various institutions including Harvard Law School, New York University Global Law School, UCLA, Paris I and the London School of Economics. She is a member of the Executive Council of the Asian Society of International Law and a past President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law. Hilary is a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. In 2016 Hilary was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. She delivered the General Course in Public International Law at the Hague Academy in 2019. She is an associate member of the Institut de Droit International and served as Judge ad hoc in the International Court of Justice in the Whaling in the Antarctic case (Australia v Japan) (2011-2014) and is currently Judge ad hoc in the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 case (Guyana v Venezuela).

  • Professor Anthea Roberts (moderator) »

    PhD '17, GDLP '06, BA '01, LLB(Hons) '01


    Anthea Roberts is a Professor at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) who specialises in public international law, international economic law, comparative international law, and the effect of geopolitical change on global governance. Prior to joining ANU, Anthea taught at the London School of Economics, Columbia Law School and Harvard Law School. Anthea chairs the ANU Working Group on Geoeconomics and is currently writing a book with Professor Nicolas Lamp called Winners and Losers: Narratives About Economic Globalisation (2021 Harvard University Press).

    In 2019, Anthea was named the world's leading international law scholar and Australia's leading law scholar based on the quality of her publications and the quantity of citations they had received. Her last book Is International Law International? (2017) won numerous prizes, including the American Society of International Law's Book Prize, and was Oxford University Press's top-selling law monograph worldwide in 2017-2018. Anthea has twice been awarded the Francis Deák Prize for the best article published in the American Journal of International Law by a younger scholar and received an ANU Futures Award and a UK Philip Leverhulme Prize.

    Anthea is or has been an editor for the American Journal of International Law, the European Journal of International Law, the Journal of International Economic Law, the Journal of World Trade and Investment and the ICSID Review. She was one of the Reporters for the Restatement of the Law Fourth, Foreign Relations of the United States (2018), and was one of two inaugural Legal Fellows for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2017-18).

    Anthea has served as counsel and an expert in investment treaty arbitrations, as an arbitrator and sole arbitrator in international commercial arbitrations, and as a testifying and consulting expert in international law cases. Prior to becoming an academic, Anthea spent five years as a lawyer at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York and London and was an Associate to Chief Justice Murray Gleeson at the High Court of Australia.

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