Concepts and Methods Workshop: Call for Papers

PluriCourt-iCourts workshop Oslo November 24-25 2020

Call for papers

We  invite paper proposals for a PluriCourts-iCourts “Concepts & Methods” Workshop on the topic When International Courts and Tribunals Defer to States, to be held in Oslo, Norway, on 24-25 November 2020.

International Courts and Tribunals (ICs) sometimes allow national actors a certain discretion in their implementation of international obligations. To illustrate: The WTO Appellate Body has granted states some latitude to restrict trade under reference to protection of ‘public morals’ (GATT, article XX (a)); the European Court of Human Rights sometimes grant states a ‘margin of appreciation’ in applying the European Convention on Human Rights. Such deference by ICs towards states raises several theoretical, conceptual, and methodological challenges for philosophical, legal and social science scholarship: when do ICs defer, why, what are the effects – and how should we assess such deference?


We invite papers that engage with:

When and why do different ICs defer in various ways to domestic authorities?

  • How can we identify various instances of deference?
  • How does the concept of deference relate to other concepts, such as judicial activism, judicial restraint and judicial diplomacy?
  • Do various expressions and forms of resistance and pushback by states explain such patterns?
  • What are the legal bases for applying deference?
  • When ICs defer, which standards of review do they apply?

What are the effects of deference on the effectiveness and legitimacy of ICs?

  • Deference may help ICs respond to powerful states, but may also reduce their influence over state actors. How do ICs to manage such and other tradeoffs?

Why and when should different ICs defer in various ways to domestic authorities?

ICs are sometimes criticized for intervening in what has traditionally been considered ‘domestic affairs’. Such interventions can be seen as undermining state sovereignty and democratic governance. On the other hand, ICs adjudicate on the basis of state consent. What are we to make of such and the following arguments:

  • What sorts of deference are due states as sovereign masters of the treaties they have consented to?
  • Deference may be appropriate in order to secure sufficient compliance by enough states to maintain general support for the treaty and the IC.
  • Deference might be justified insofar as ICs arguably face informational disadvantages compared to domestic actors better situated to develop and implement policies at the domestic level.
  • Deference may be justified on the basis of some concept of “Subsidiarity,” requiring that authority should be placed and exercised as close as possible to the ultimate unit of concern, and only centralized as much as necessary e.g. given the treaty objectives.


  • June 15: Paper proposal deadline. Proposals should include a title and an abstract (maximum 300 words). Submit via online form
  • June 30: We expect to make decisions and send out invitations
Published Mar. 31, 2020 1:58 PM - Last modified Mar. 31, 2020 2:09 PM