LAWPUBL 752 - Contemporary Issues in International Law

Lecturer biography

Dr Madelaine Chiam is a lecturer at the La Trobe Law School in Melbourne, Australia. She researches primarily in public international law, and is particularly interested in the histories of international law, the relationships between the global and the local, and the role of international law in Australia and New Zealand. Madelaine is a contributor to the Oxford Bibliographies in International Law, and her work has been published in journals such as the London Review of International Law, the Griffith Law Review and the Sydney Law Review. Her monograph, International Law in Public Debate, will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2020. Madelaine holds a BA/LLB and PhD from the University of Melbourne, and an LLM from the University of Toronto. She is a regular member of the faculty of the Harvard Law School Institute for Global Law and Policy Workshop and a founding member of the La Trobe International Legal Studies Research Group.

Dr Anna Hood is a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland. Anna’s research focuses on international law and disarmament, international law and security issues, and the history of Aotearoa/New Zealand and international law.
Anna has a BA/LLB from the University of Melbourne, an LLM (International Legal Studies) from NYU and a PhD from the University of Melbourne. Her PhD was entitled The Security Council’s Legislative Phase and the Rise of Emergency International Law-Making.
Anna has had her worked published by Cambridge University press as well as in journal such as the Melbourne Journal of International Law, the Journal of International Law and International Relations, the Finnish Yearbook of International Law and the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion.
In addition to her academic work, Anna is a co-director of Lex Specialis, an international law consulting organisation that provides pro bono international law advice and training to states, non-government organisations and other actors working on international issues.

Course Outline

Public international law is a field that encompasses a wide array of issues including the use of force, human rights, international criminal law, environmental law and international dispute settlement. This course provides students with an opportunity to delve into a select number of contemporary international law matters. The topics covered in the 2019 course are likely to focus on refugee law, disarmament law, human rights law and poverty, and the effect on the international legal system of states withdrawing from important treaty regimes. The course will also include a simulation based on international uses of force. These topics may be adjusted to take into account significant international legal developments in 2019.

Through examining these contemporary international law issues, students will have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of foundational international law principles and the role of key international institutions such as the United Nations. Additionally the course will provide students with an understanding of some of the historical contexts and theoretical constructs that underpin contemporary international law events. Students will be encouraged to critically evaluate the position and relevance of international law in international politics and society.


The objectives of this course are to provide you with opportunities to get a deep understanding of a range of contemporary international legal issues and to be able to think critically about the role of international law in the international system.

Learning Outcomes

  • On completion of this course students should be able to:
  • Understand a range of contemporary international legal issues in context
  • Understand how different bodies of international law apply (or do not apply) to and affect issues that arise in the international arena
  • Identify and use international legal principles to think about contemporary international problems
  • Understand some of the historical and theoretical context that underpin contemporary international legal problems
  • Have the ability to critically assess international legal frameworks and offer informed opinions on the strength and shortcomings of international legal systems


10% research essay plan and bibliography
90% research essay of 12,500 words.

Essay Plan and Bibliography

Students will be required to submit a one-page essay plan and sample bibliography of 10-12 sources by Friday 21 June. Madelaine and Anna will provide students with feedback on their plan and bibliography to help them prepare for their research essay.


Each student is required to submit a research essay of no more than 12,500 words including an abstract/synopsis of 500 words. The essay is to be original work, relying on secondary and primary sources. It MUST be the work of the enrolled student. Another person, other than the enrolled student, MUST NOT write the essay nor do the research on behalf of the enrolled student. Plagiarism is not permitted and in that regard each student should read the University’s plagiarism policy and adhere to it. All students will be expected to sign a plagiarism declaration when submitting their essays. Students must also use proper legal citations and include a reading list at the end of their type-written essay. The essay should be comprised of properly crafted English sentences. (Note form is unacceptable.) The use of sub-headings is encouraged and footnotes rather than Harvard style in-text referencing are to be used.
Descriptive essays are not encouraged. Instead students are expected to engage with relevant legal issues by: critiquing the law; developing proposals for reform; examining the operation of law and policy in practice; and/or providing a conceptual/theoretical analysis of the law, for example.

Essays must be submitted to the Faculty of Law, by 12 noon 22 August 2019
Extensions will not be granted lightly (only on sickness and compassionate grounds) and must be requested formally through the Postgraduate Manager.

Criteria & Marking

Students will be individually assessed on the quality of their contributions with reference to the following criteria:

• Identifies a clear, relevant research question
• Conducts and uses relevant research
• Sets out and develops a clear argument
• Supports the argument with evidence, reasons and authoritative sources
• Shows comprehension of relevant concepts, policies, doctrine and sources
• Demonstrates critical analysis and insightfulness in uses of relevant concepts, policies and doctrine
• Includes an introduction that sets out and contextualises the topic, sets out the argument, and provides a map of how the essay will develop
• Links ideas coherently and shows effective uses of sections, sub-sections (where appropriate) and paragraphs
• Includes a clear, concise conclusion
• Is well-written, with no spelling or typing errors and due regard given to appropriate capitalisation, abbreviation and other standard conventions of writing
• Acknowledges all sources appropriately and with the correct referencing style
• Follows all instructions for the Essay

Reading Materials

Reading materials will be contained in the Casebook/Study Guide. Students may also be asked to access additional materials via the internet or in the library.

Teaching Method

The course will be taught over five days from Monday to Friday. Classes will be interactive and welcoming. It will be necessary for students to do the pre-reading for the course so that they get the most out of the materials under discussion.

Classes will commence at 9am and run till 5pm with breaks during the day.  

Course details

Semester: One
Type: Intensive
Points: 30
Dates: 10 - 14 June 2019
Time: 9am-5pm
Location: Building 810, Room 3.40
1-11 Short Street

Contact details

Postgraduate Student Adviser
Law Student Centre
Level 2, 1-11 Short Street


Lecturer contact details: and