Contemporary global politics are marked by a renewed debate over the significance and limits of state sovereignty. In the eyes of many, the COVID-19 pandemic has reasserted the importance of territorial sovereignty as well as of national identity and citizenship. Populations have become more acutely conscious of their rights and responsibilities as members of a particular political community, and their ultimate reliance upon their governments to protect them from the virus. Well before the outbreak of this pandemic, however, many scholars, policy-analysts, and state officials had already been highlighting the ‘return’ of sovereignty, often in juxtaposition to either the transnational economic forces of globalization or liberal international norms. Powerful economic and political trends (including protectionism and populism) were casting doubt on the reach and impact of liberal ideals such as free movement and economic interdependence. In part, these trends reflected a structural shift in international order in which the relative position of the United States was declining, and the standing of non-Western powers with attachment to what is loosely referred to as “Westphalian” sovereignty was increasing. Although some IR scholars have argued that today’s great powers (Russia, China and the US) are espousing and practicing a new form of “extra-legal sovereignty” (Paris 2020), the former two states - in order to garner wider support for their respective world views - regularly appeal to an understanding of sovereignty that underscores long-standing principles of territorial integrity and political independence. Read More
About the Speaker: Jennifer M. Welsh is the Canada 150 Research Chair in Global Governance and Security at McGill University. She was previously Professor and Chair in International Relations at the European University Institute and Professor in International Relations at the University of Oxford, where she co-founded the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict. From 2013-2016, she served as the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, on the Responsibility to Protect.
Professor Welsh is the author, co-author, and editor of several books and articles on humanitarian intervention, the evolution of the notion of the ‘responsibility to protect’ in international society, the UN Security Council, norm conflict and contestation, and Canadian foreign policy.