Skip to content

Spring 2024 Seminar

International Law in an era of inequality: redistribution from the Global South

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Inequality has swiftly entered public discourse as increasingly stark differences in wealth and income threaten the health of our democracies. But unlike domestic inequality, there is less policy discussions and little concerted international action to tackle global inequality, notwithstanding the enormous differences in wealth and resources between rich and poor nations. This course explores past and present international legal ideas and policy proposals to redistribute resources and burdens from north to south.

The international legal order does not recognize redistributive obligations between nations. States from the global north have consistently opposed the recognition of concrete duties of international cooperation, from opposition to the International Seabed Authority redistributing resources from seabed mining, to opposition against a tax on transnational financial transactions, and against a Global Health Treaty pulling resources to finance R&D on neglected tropical diseases. We will study these and other examples and focus on controversies between north and south on the redistributive dimension of international regulation, like the clash between the ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ principle and individual pledges in climate change. We will finally study a number of redistributive initiatives from the global south, from the 1970s New International Economic Order’s international commodity agreements, regarding coffee and sugar, to the obligation to transfer technology in the nuclear non-proliferation Treaty and the Law of the Sea, to contemporary challenges by Latin-American states to the U.N international drug control regime.

Note: This seminar will be taught over four weeks, tentative dates below:

  • January: 29-30-31
  • February: 5-6-7
  • March: 25-26-27
  • April: 1-2-3