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The Institute

The Institute for International Law of the K.U.Leuven was founded in 1999 and is led by Prof. Dr. Jan Wouters. The Institute is responsible for legal education and research concerning international law and the law of international organisations at K.U.Leuven. The Institute is also responsible for the organization and coordination of the participation of Leuven law students in international moot court competitions. Lastly, the Institute organizes congresses, seminars, workshops and lectures, focusing on current issues of international law and bringing them to the fore. With the same aim, members of the Institute regularly write opinions for the general (Flemish) media.

The starting point for both education and research is the finding that there is an increasing interdependence between nation states and consequently an erosion of their sovereign competencies. As those processes are complex, the Institute wants to examine the functioning of international law and the legal developments within international organisations in a broader context: attention is thus paid to the political, ethical, social and economical dimension of international regulation and practice. The Institute therefore participates both in intradisciplinary research groups (Human Rights and International Justice) and in interdisciplinary research centres (Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies) and programmes for legal education (European Studies, and starting in 2009-2010 the interdisciplinary Master of Space Studies).

A recurring point of priority in the research of the Institute is the growing importance of non-state actors in international relations: apart from intergovernmental organizations, this phenomenon concerns non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multinational corporations and the individual. The issues of legitimacy and responsibility of those non-state actors are a particular topics for further research.

This does not imply that more classical parts of international law are not dealt with. Specific research is being conducted in the field of the sources of international law, the subjects (cf. supra), the law of treaties and the relationship between international and national law (amongst others: instruments for granting more effectivity to international law, such as direct effect and interpretation in conformity with international law, the special position of federal states such as Belgium, the relationship between international law, European law and national constitutions).

Attention is also being paid, both concerning research and teaching, to a selected number of subdomains of international law. This is more in particular the case for international institutional law (see the course “Law of International Organizations”), international economic law, more in particular the The Law of the World Trade Organization, and international humanitarian law (see the course "Armed Conflicts and the Law", which will be transformed in the academic year 2009-2010 into “Humanitarian and Security Law from a European Perspective”). Furthermore, the Institute offers practical courses on three topics, i.e. diplomacy (in Dutch), space law and the role of the EU in the dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO. The Institute is also the national point of contact for the European Centre for Space Law.