Universiteit Leiden

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Research programme

Exploring the Frontiers of International Law

The international legal order is in a process of transformation. But how transforms globalization the international legal order? This research programme provides a clearer framework to analyze this..

Carsten Stahn

Growing extension of global norms and institutions (through regulation, executive action, adjudication, norm diffusion or institutional interaction etc.) presents challenges for the international legal order (coherence, fairness, integrity, transparency, etc.). This requires careful scrutiny. The concept of frontiers provides an innovative framework to understand such processes.

Holistic and critical

The concept refers not only to physical boundaries or demarcation lines. It serves as a means to analyze and understand legal concepts, practices and discourses across different fields of international law, and to identify synergies, differences and limitations. This perspective facilitates a holistic and critical assessment of international law and practice.


The research programme pursues several objectives. The main purpose is to assess whether and how international law applies to new social phenomena and global challenges, such as peace, justice, sustainable development or environmental protection. The programme investigates both the contributions, and the limitations of international law, in responding to global problems. 

It pursues three different objectives:

  1. to identify existing international norms and practices
  2. to engage with their critiques, and
  3. to identify ways and means to improve the status quo.

Lines of inquiry

Through this orientation, the programme seeks to offer a better account of the identity and effectiveness of international law, and its societal relevance. It also explores the divergences and synergies between international law and related disciplines in responses to global challenges.

It pursues several overarching lines of inquiry:

  • What is the role of international law in relation to major global challenges, such as peace, security, global justice, sustainable development, protection of global commons?
  • How do international legal discourses evolve, and what are their continuities, innovations and critiques?
  • How do legal norms, concepts and practices develop through regulatory, executive or adjudicative processes and how are they are applied at the international, national or local context?
  • How does the transformation of international law influence the operation and interaction of different areas of international law, including their mutual influences and limitations?
  • What goals and means does international law pursue, and how can they be refined?

Grotius PhD Track

The Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies offers PhD candidates a flexible programme and a stimulating research environment. It is a programme particularly attractive to and designed for 'external' PhD candidates, that work part-time or full-time. External PhD Candidates need not be based in The Hague.

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Visitors programme

The Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies offers a limited number of places to international law practitioners and academics who wish to conduct research at the Centre in one of the focal areas of its research programme “Exploring the Frontiers of International Law”.

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Academic Staff

PhD Candidates

External PhD Candidates

Summer Schools

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