Interview with Visiting Scholar Mark Pollack



PATHS Workshop Programme

6-7 June, 2019

Auditorium Jacques-Freymond, 132 rue de Lausanne, 1202 Geneva (Morning)

Villa Moynier, Rue de Lausanne 120B, Geneva (Afternoon)

The aim of our two-day workshop, which brings together scholars from international law, international relations, and international political sociology, is to explore informal change in the international legal order. This workshop is a part of the PATHS project funded by the European Research Council. We would like to use our collective expertise 1) to trace different accounts of informal change as it is seen from different disciplinary lenses, 2) to take stock of various theoretical approaches and 3) to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of those different approaches in light of empirical examples. This should help us to make a significant contribution to the study of the dynamics of international law, and to inform both legal scholars’ attempts at reconstructing the way international law changes, and political scientists’ and sociologists’ efforts at understanding when, why and how such change occurs.


Thursday, 6 June 2019

09:00 Arrival & Coffee

09:30-10:00 Introduction & Framing Paper
Nico Krisch
& Ezgi Yildiz (Graduate Institute, Geneva): The Paths of International Law: Stability and Change in the International Legal Order

10:00-11:00 International Legal Change in a Shifting International Order

Eyal Benvenisti (University of Cambridge): International Law in the Age of Bilateralism
Mark Pollack (Temple University): The Eternal Optimism of the International Law Scholar and the Fragility of the International Legal Order
Discussant: Stephanie Hofmann (Graduate Institute, Geneva)
Chair: Ezgi Yildiz (Graduate Institute, Geneva) 

11:30-13:00 Competing Accounts of Change

Kenneth Abbott (Arizona State University) & Duncan Snidal (University of Oxford): Filling in the Folk Theorem: Gradualism and Change in International Law
Jutta Brunnée (University of Toronto): Interactional International Law: Examining Stability and Change in the Right to Self-Defence against Non-state Actors
Matthew Windsor (University of Reading): Justifying Change in International Law
Discussant: Benedict Kingsbury (New York University)
Chair: Nico Krisch (Graduate Institute, Geneva)

13:00-14:00 Lunch

14:00-15:30 The Construction and Evolution of Rules

James Hollway & Umut Yüksel (Graduate Institute, Geneva): Convergent Institutional Evolution and the Limits of Delimitation
Tonya Putnam (Columbia University): Between Practice and Precedent: The Politics of Constructing Authoritative Evidence of Legal Rules
Ezgi Yildiz & Umut Yüksel (Graduate Institute, Geneva): When Pathways of Change Crisscross: Courts, Consensus, Custom
Discussant: Erik Voeten (Georgetown University)
Chair: Laurence Helfer (Duke University)

15:45-16:45 Actors of Change in International Law

Moshe Hirsch (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): Political Sociology, Social Movements and Increasing Application of Human Rights Law in Investment Jurisprudence
Sebastián Rioseco (University of Melbourne): COPs as a Legal Pathway
Discussant: Tanja Aalberts (VU Amsterdam)
Chair: Diana Panke (University of Freiburg)

17:00-18:00 Repetition & Recursivity as Drivers of Change

Susan Block-Lieb (Fordham University): Recursive Incrementalism: The Role of Sub-State and Non-State Actors in Translating Soft International Law
Wouter Werner (VU Amsterdam): Repetition Expert Bodies and the Formation of Customary Law
Discussant: Anna Leander (Graduate Institute, Geneva)
Chair: Jutta Brunée (University of Toronto)

 20:00 Dinner for participants


Friday, 7 June 2019

08:45-09:00 Coffee

09:00-10:00 Mechanisms of Change

Giovanni Mantilla (University of Cambridge): Pathways of Change in International Humanitarian Law
Niccolò Ridi (University of Liverpool): Constraint, Coherence, Adjustment: Using the Past to Effect Change in International Adjudication
Discussant: Nina Reiners (University of Potsdam)
Chair: Tonya Putnam (Columbia University)

10:15-11:15 Accounting for Change: Practices versus Fields?

Tanja Aalberts (VU Amsterdam): Practices, Performances and the Magic of International Law
Grégoire Mallard (Graduate Institute, Geneva): Approaching Law as Fields: New Theoretical Developments in Socio-Legal Studies
Discussant: Andrew Hurrell (University of Oxford)
Chair: Madeline Baer (San Diego State University)

11:30-13:00 Regional Change Dynamics

Matheus Hernandez (UFGD, Brazil) & Adriana Erthal (Igarapé Institute, Brazil): Negotiating Boundaries in International Law: Legal Change and Stasis in the Inter-American Human Rights System
Laurence Helfer (Duke University) & Erik Voeten (Georgetown University): Walking Back Human Rights in Europe
Stephanie Hofmann (Graduate Institute, Geneva): The Use of Force and Regional Order
Discussant: Wayne Sandholtz (USC)
Chair: Thomas Biersteker (Graduate Institute, Geneva)

13:00-14:00 Lunch

14:00-15:00 Norm Challenges, Contestation and Death

Madeline Baer (San Diego State University): Contesting Rights: Champions and Challengers of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Diana Panke (University of Freiburg): Norm Challenges in the International Systems. Exploring Pathways towards Norm Changes and Norm Death
Discussant: Fuad Zarbiyev (Graduate Institute, Geneva)
Chair: Mark Pollack (Temple University) 

15:15-16:30 Final Round table: Dynamics of Change in International Law

Andrew Hurrell (University of Oxford)
Benedict Kingsbury (New York University)
Anna Leander (Graduate Institute, Geneva)
Thomas Biersteker (Graduate Institute, Geneva)
Chair: Nico Krisch (Graduate Institute, Geneva)

17:00 Apéro



Call for Papers: The Paths of Change in International Law
Workshop, 6 and 7 June 2019
Geneva, Switzerland


Nico Krisch, Professor, International Law, Graduate Institute
Ezgi Yildiz, Postdoctoral Researcher, Global Governance Centre, Graduate Institute

This workshop is a part of the European Research Council funded PATHS project, where we investigate the ways in which international law changes informally (through reinterpretation or shifts in custom).

International law is traditionally seen to erect high hurdles for change – typically unanimity or a uniformity of practice of states – and this high threshold has provoked much criticism for hindering the pursuit of justice, the provision of public goods, and the democratic revision of political choices. Yet in different areas, such as international criminal law or the law of international organizations, international law has in recent times undergone more rapid change than the traditional picture would allow, and often in informal ways that do not fit classical categories. However, this greater dynamism has found little sustained attention in scholarship so far. The PATHS project seeks to fill this gap and understand when and how international law changes, how this change is registered among participants in legal discourses and how the pathways of change differ across issue areas and sites of international legal practice.

In the workshop, we seek to bring together leading and rising scholars from different disciplines – law, international relations, and political sociology – to explore these issues in a small and interactive format. We are particularly interested in sharpening the contrasts between different theoretical and methodological approaches, and invite participants to develop distinctive arguments rather than ecumenical accounts.

We invite submissions that tackle the following questions:

– What are the factors behind change (and stasis) in international law?
– How does political change translate into legal change in the international realm?
– What role do powerful and less powerful states, international institutions, and courts play?
– When is international legal change rapid, when incremental?
– Who can block change in international law?

Submission procedure:

We invite interested scholars to submit an abstract of no more than 300 words by 10 January 2019 at

Proposals will be selected based on their quality, originality and engagement with the workshop themes. Accepted submissions will be notified by 10 February 2019.

We expect to receive a draft of your papers by 30 May 2019. We do not expect fully-developed papers, but rather short, crisp pieces of 10 to 15 pages that speak directly to some of these questions on the basis of your theoretical and empirical expertise.

Practical information:

The workshop will be held at the Graduate Institute of International and Development in Geneva, Switzerland. We will cover your travel expenses (economy airfare) and accommodation in Geneva.



24.4.2017 Interview with Dr. Nico Krisch on his new ERC project studying when and how international law changes

Is international law an overly rigid instrument that handicaps change in international politics and global public policy? International lawmaking tends to be cumbersome, and many critics have emphasised the negative effects on justice, public goods or the democratic revision of political choices that this entails. However, in different fields such as international criminal law or the law of international organisations, international law has developed rapidly, going beyond its traditional image, and often informally. Understanding this contradiction is at the heart of a new project led by Nico Krisch, Professor of International Law at the Graduate Institute. Entitled “The Paths of International Law: Stability and Change in the International Legal Order (PATHS)”, it has been awarded a five-year advanced grant of the European Research Council (ERC). Read the full interview here.