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ILA Study Group on the Role of Cities in International Law


The International Law Association (ILA) introduced a new Study Group on the ‘The Role of Cities in International Law’. The new group was established after a proposal submitted by Janne Nijman, Asser Institute, NL, and Helmut Aust, Freie Universität, Berlin, DE. Both are co-chairs of the study group.

Global cities and international law
Globalisation, urbanisation, and decentralisation are three global trends that contribute to the internationalisation of the city, Nijman recently argued in ‘The Renaissance of the City as Global Actor (2016)’. ”Cities are stepping onto the international stage as global actors, Nijman explains. In the field of Climate Change the Paris agreement is the latest case in point, but similar developments are visible in the fields of human rights, migration, and human security.” This points to a changing role of cities within the international legal order. According to Nijman, this changing role demands close examination by a group of international legal experts; an ILA Study Group is an excellent place to do exactly that.

Questions the SG will deal with include:

  • What is the impact of the internationalisation of the city on the international legal order?
  • How is the changing international legal order impacting the world’s cities?
  • To what extent is international law starting to define the legal status and government of cities?
  • Are there specific problems attached to the role of cities as objects of international law?
  • Have cities become accepted as subjects of international law?

The International Law Association was founded in Brussels in 1873. It has a membership of around 4000 international lawyers around the world. Its objectives, under its Constitution, are "the study, clarification and development of international law, both public and private, and the furtherance of international understanding and respect for international law". Study Groups of the ILA are established to allow quick responses to urgent questions. Study groups consist of a small group of recognised international law experts.


Aust, H. (2019) The Shifting Role of Cities in the Global Climate Change Regime: From Paris to Pittsburgh and Back?. Review of European, Comparative and International Environmental Law. 23, 57-66.

Aust, H. (2018) 'Good Urban Citizen'. In: Hohmann, J., Joyce, D. (ed.) International Law's Objects. Oxford (OUP), pp. 225-233.