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International Law and the City (LAWS90154)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5Not available in 2019

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Year of offerNot available in 2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeLAWS90154
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

In recent decades, cities have become a critical site through which contemporary international aspirations are pursued. Increasingly, cities are asserting themselves as international actors while also coming to be regulated by global lawmaking processes. This subject offers an in-depth inquiry into international law and global governance, viewed through the lens of the city. Relevant both to scholars and practitioners, the course critically assesses the international legal framework in which cities in the global north and south are coming to be enmeshed, with a focus on the city-scale governance of climate change, urban security and human rights.

The subject will combine interactive lectures with group presentations, invited speakers and the use of documentaries and new media. Readings will be drawn from law and a wide range of other disciplines, including international relations, history, geography, development, sociology, anthropology, architecture, planning and philosophy. The more theoretical texts will be complemented by primary sources allowing students to develop a close reading on one of the most topical developments in contemporary global governance and international law.

Principal topics include:

  • Introduction: Cities, international law and global governance today - an overview
  • History and theory: From interwar internationalism to state decentralisation; The emergence of the global city; Urban development and the right to the city
  • The legal framework: Cities in international law; Cities in domestic legal orders; Cities and international organisations: The local in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank; Cities as civil society; Cities
  • Practices: The sustainable City: The climate change regime; The bankable city: Urban finances, competitiveness and debt; The human rights city: Local residents and urban development
  • The law and politics of global cities: Local activism and the remaking of international law; Alternative local futures and global orders.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon completion of the subject, students are expected to demonstrate:

  • A specialised knowledge of contemporary mechanisms of global governance and how they impact on cities and are shaped by cities
  • A sophisticated understanding of how cities have begun to assert themselves as internationally relevant actors and how this assertion has been received in international law and domestic legal orders
  • An advanced and critical understanding of what global cooperation between cities can contribute to the solution of today's global problems, such as in the climate change context
  • An integrated and advanced understanding of how international organisations, such as the IMF and the World Bank, are shaping the conditions for the international endeavours of cities and how this affects the relationship between states and cities across the world
  • A critical and analytical understanding of the financial, demographic, social and political challenges faced by cities and local residents as a result of the reallocation of developmental responsibilities to the local level by national governments and international institutions
  • A critical awareness of the acuteness of these developments in global south municipalities
  • A specialised ability to critically assess competing conceptions of the global and the local
  • A specialised and sophisticated awareness of how the emergence of cities as international actors changes the conditions for the conduct of foreign policy by nation states.

Last updated: 17 April 2019