International law erects 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, funded by the European Research Council, and hosted by the Global Governance Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva 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.
I have presented some of the ideas coming out of the project in an article, “The Dynamics of International Law Redux”, Current Legal Problems, forthcoming, available here, and in a 2021 lecture, “From Drivers to Bystanders: The Varying Roles of States in International Legal Change”, available here.
More information on the project is available at https://paths-of-international-law.org/