Law, Governance & Global Change

The Law, Governance & Global Change Program takes a broad view of the international law (public, private, transnational) in exploring global change. Researchers in the Program are engaged in developing and improving the law’s effectiveness in meeting emerging global needs.

One of the defining features of the twenty-first century has been the speed of global change and the globalization of formerly state-based and regulated activities. Improvements in transportation, the ongoing expansion and improvement in digital technologies, the migration of those affected by poverty, war and climate change, the continued intermingling of financial markets and fiscal policies, and a consequential proliferation in the movement of ideas, money, goods, pests and people across borders has created a range of unprecedented problems that require urgent attention and long­term legal and governance mechanisms.

Researchers in this Program look at the ways in which the law might be reconfigured and integrated with ethical, political and economic imperatives to deal with cross-jurisdictional change, including those driven within national jurisdictions. The Program takes a humanistic approach that incorporates cultural perspectives and jurisprudential methods. Researchers aim to provide a resource for the development of integrity-based governance through research and capacity building. The Program highlights the values of integrity that should inform the emerging global order.

Research under this Program will link to research within other Griffith research centres and institutions, including the Griffith Criminology Institute and the Centre for Governance and Public Policy and will build on activities such as the Global Integrity Summit.

AEL Research Grant:  The Future of Feminist Engagement under International Law, 2016

Sue received AEL funding in 2016 to host an international expert meeting at Griffith University in collaboration with the Australian National University Gender Institute and Law School for 23-24 June 2016, and then a workshop at the Graduate Institute Geneva.   The aim of The Future of Women’s Engagement with International Law project is to bring a new network of scholars together from a diverse group of countries to produce a prestigious high quality work of lasting significance.  The project will attempt to define the research agenda for women’s engagement with international law over the next 50 years.  

The first product is a Research Handbook, co-edited by Sue and Kate Ogg from ANU.  Edward Elgar has commissioned this new Research Handbook in Women and International Law, to be part of its new International Handbooks on Gender, edited by Professor Sylvia Chant.  Edward Elgar is a leading international publisher of scholarly legal titles, specializing in original Research Handbooks.   The aim is to produce prestigious high quality works of lasting significance.

Since a seminal article in 1991 (Hilary Charlesworth, Christine Chinkin, & Shelly Wright, 'Feminist Approaches to International Law', 85 American Journal of International Law 613-645 (No. 4, 1991), scholars and advocates have been exploring the interaction and potential between the rights and well-being of women and the promise of international law.

We believe that the next frontier for international law is increasing its relevance, beneficence and impact for women in the developing world, and to deal with a much wider range of issues.  Our innovation is to avoid focusing on existing areas of international law but rather have contributions that address larger themes (for example, gender and international law making, gender and international law reform and gender and the beneficiaries of international law). 

Research Questions to be explored at the Workshop include the following:

How can international law increase its relevance, beneficence and impact for women in the developed and developing world? How can international law deal with a much wider range of issues relevant to women’s lives than it currently does?  
What are the next frontiers for:

  • gender and international law making
  • gender and international law reform; and
  • gender and the beneficiaries of international law?

We have brought leading academics and emerging scholars from as many nations and areas of law as possible to tease out themes for the future research agenda.  We have identified the following areas for further examination. 

  • Where are the Women in International Law?
  • Women and International Law Making and Enforcement
  • Women as the Subjects of International Law
  • Women and International Law Theory
  • Women and Methodologies in International Law (both legal and academic methodologies)
  • Future Horizons


Is the status of women a tradable commodity (a silent bargaining chip) during political transitions? If so, who trades what, when and why?

Transition means moving from war to peace, economic disruption or changing one system of government/leadership to another. One of the key means by which this occurs is the diplomatic process, of bargaining, compromising, settlement or trading. There is, however, a danger that in order to secure political objectives or preferences, negotiators may ‘trade away’ the interests of vulnerable or emerging social forces, sometimes knowingly, more often without due appreciation of the interests under threat.

This book examines the gender politics of transitions.  I examine the link between negotiation processes around the globe; and outcomes for social groups who struggle to gain access to power, focussing on the rights of women and girls. This book is about how women’s rights are traded away by negotiators directly in exchange for immediate political or other settlements, and indirectly in terms of being left off the international agenda with long-term consequences. The struggle between actors in reformist groups can also trade away women’s rights before the agenda with international actors is agreed. But this research looks beyond the formal negotiating table and agreed international law to other spaces where 'trades' can take place, such as personal status laws, 'ordinary' crimes, economic governance and institutional design.

The aim is to assess ideas and discourse about the ‘tradeability’ of a group’s rights in states experiencing a seismic transition, such as in Afghanistan or Myanmar.  What does diplomacy look like ‘from below’ in these situations?  This book compiles evidence from around the globe, including Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Timor Leste, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Philippines.

This book has the potential to expand the horizons of international and domestic actors by alerting them to key groups whose concerns in peacemaking diplomacy might otherwise be overlooked. In doing so, it not only enhances the prospects that settlements in which the international community has been involved will prove sustainable, but also shows way in which the practice of modern diplomacy can be transformed.

The book might also prove valuable to activists as well, as it can alert them as to what kinds of ‘traps’ to avoid so that women’s rights are not traded away in their context.

The study’s normative recommendation is that international actors ought to develop a habit of sociocultural analysis and commit to a new principle of ‘institutional design’ so as to ‘do no harm’ to particular vulnerable or emerging sociocultural groups that may not have loud voices.