The Future of International Law
As the American Society of International Law enters its second century, the 101st Annual
Meeting will challenge scholars and practitioners to reflect on “The Future of
International Law.” While the future cannot be predicted, certain trends are shifting the
stakes of the international order.
For example, the gap between the richest and poorest countries is increasing.
Demographic pressures are affecting the developed and developing worlds. Global
pandemics pose serious threats to international order. Resource scarcities and
environmental degradation continue to grow.
In addition to these socioeconomic dynamics, military trends also will affect the future of
international law. Ongoing affronts to global security defy traditional concepts of war
and peace. How will international law manage future conflicts? How will it respond to
the changing face of weapons proliferation?
Such substantive challenges raise important institutional questions. What are the
consequences of increasingly institutionalized dispute settlement? What about the
resurgence of “private international law” in structuring international relations? In what
ways is the international legal system moving away from the Westphalian order and
toward new forms of ordering? What of the move to “governance” as a mode of
lawmaking, involving multilayered interactions between various actors within states as
well as nonstate actors? How does changing technology affect these institutional
Finally, what innovations are emerging in practice, teaching, and scholarship? How
should international lawyers adapt to emerging trends and new forms of complexity?
What are the professional responsibilities of international lawyers in this new
The 101st Annual Meeting will generate and inform ideas about the future of
international law and the role of international lawyers. Our challenge is to assess these
and other trends while at the same time interrogating claims of their “newness.” We must
temper our visions of the future’s promise and peril with the recognition that such
visions, whether utopian or dystopian, can distract from our treatment of the present.
Understanding and molding our transition into the future will require critical thinking,
creativity, interdisciplinary focus, and a willingness to take risks.