6 June 2017 LUCIR Opening Lecture

On Tuesday, 6 June 2017, 15:30-17:00, the Inaugural Lecture of the new Leiden University Centre for International Relations (LUCIR) will be held in the FSW’s Pieter de la Court building (room 1.A20).

Prof. Erik Voeten (Georgetown University, USA) will speak on ‘Liberalism, Populism and the Backlash against International Courts’—a topic with clear relevance to the contemporary political climate and the future of many international institutions based in The Hague.

Professor Voeten is the Peter F. Krogh Professor of Geopolitics and Justice in World Affairs at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Department of Government. He holds a PhD and MA from Princeton University and a BSc from the University of Twente.

Liberalism, Populism, and the Backlash against International Courts

Why do some governments engage in backlash against international courts whereas other governments continue to accept them or ignore adverse judgments without initiating a campaign to undermine a court’s authority? Erik Voeten argues that international courts tend to face backlashes from governments that rely on the support of populist movements and over court judgments that reinforce populist mobilization narratives that a corrupt liberal elite protects criminals, terrorists, homosexuals, imperialists, or other ‘morally decrepit’ groups at the expense of the people.

Populism is a thin ideology that opposes counter-majoritarian protections of pluralism and international authority over national matters. It is also an anti-system ideology, favouring backlash over more realist modes to circumvent the grasp of international courts. By contrast, prevailing theories focus on variation in democratic institutions rather than ideology. These theories fail to incorporate the distributive consequences of international courts. International courts by and large serve to promote a respect for liberal principles such as property rights and the protection of minorities. These principles are often controversial. Some political parties, media, and civil society groups do not see international courts as tools to protect them from the undemocratic tendencies of elites but as tools for liberal elites to cement their preferred policies against the ‘will of the people.’ Erik Voeten will discuss the broader implications of this perspective.

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