A wooden gavel lies on a wooden table (image by Wesley Tingey, Unsplash)

Public international law

As well as looking at the relationship between the state and individuals, the Centre examines relationships between states and other international actors.

The Centre’s approach to public law goes beyond the relationship between the state and individuals to encompass relationships between states and other international actors.

Many of the Centre’s activities, in terms of research, publications, projects, and events, engage in the analysis and discussion of all areas of public international law.

Areas addressed by the Centre include the status of the Treaty of Waitangi in international law, international human rights issues, the history and practice of international organisations, public law analyses of international governance, and other questions related to New Zealand's place in the international order.

Our research, publications, and projects examine many different aspects of comparative public law.

Explore our publications and projects.

Recent activity

New Zealand Lives in Public Law

NZCPL Director Professor Joel Colón-Ríos talked to Sir Kenneth Keith about his early life and education, about his role in the judiciary and experience in law reform, and about some of his views about sovereignty and the Treaty of Waitangi.

View video


Populism, the pandemic, and prospects for international law

This lecture was presented by Professor Campbell McLachlan QC and chaired by Dame Susan Glazebrook. Professor McLachlan discussed the implications of populism on international law in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The rise of populism in a number of democratic states has been a striking feature of contemporary global politics. A key populist tenet has been its claim to protect the people against external forces.

Despite this, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the implications of populism for international law. Yet its effects are now being put to the test under the extreme conditions of the global pandemic. Against this background, Professor McLachlan asked, “What are the prospects for the capacity of the international legal system to respond to the current crisis?”

Watch a YouTube video of Professor McLachlan's lecture.


Update from the United Kingdom

Dr Joelle Grogan of Middlesex University gave a video presentation in which she discussed recent developments related to Brexit.

Watch a YouTube video of Dr Grogan's presentation.


Global governance and the emergence of global institutions for the 21st Century

Dr Augusto Lopez-Claros, Executive Director of the Swiss-based non-profit foundation Global Governance Forum, gave a presentation at the New Zealand Centre for Public Law. He asked, “Is there any hope for those who despair at the state of the world and the powerlessness of governments to find a way forward?”

In his presentation, Dr Lopez-Claros provided ambitious, but reasonable, proposals designed to give our globalised world the institutions of international governance that it needs to address catastrophic risks facing humanity that are beyond national control.

He said his solution would be to extend to the international level the same principles of sensible governance that exist in well-governed national systems: the rule of law, legislation in the common interest, an executive branch to implement such legislation, and courts to enforce it.

In Dr Lopez-Claros’s view, the best protection is unified collective action based on shared values and respect for diversity, applying widely accepted international principles to advance universal human prosperity and wellbeing.

Watch a YouTube video of Dr Lopez-Claros's presentation.