Research in the Globalisation theme centres on three main issues: globalisation-induced transformation of legitimacy, the transfer of public interests to non-state actors and effective judicial protection. Each participating faculty tackles one or more of the core issues through their own vision and angle, but all strive to do so by challenging traditional disciplinary and organisational boundaries.

Transformation of legitimacy: democracy, rule of law and responsibility.

The exercise of public authority at the international and European level and the increased role of other actors – which stem directly from globalization – is leading to a fundamental transformation of the way in which core values such as democracy, the rule of law and responsibility (traditionally linked to the dominant role of the state and national law) take shape. They may also lead to a transformation of these core values themselves. Questions about the legitimacy of public authority in a new reconfiguration lead to withdrawal from and contestation of supranational law. This is at the expense of the ability of those legal systems to realize opportunities of globalization and to respond to threats. An additional challenge lies in the advance of transnational institutions such as multinationals, the change of the carriers of the public debate (social media) and information.

Research questions

  • What is the impact of the Europeanization and internationalization of the right on legitimacy processes that lie at the heart of liberal democracies?
  • What are the consequences for democratic law-making of a globalizing, but on the other hand increasingly fragmented public sphere? And how can the value of democratic legal law-making take on new forms in this situation?
  • Are the international and European decision-making processes sufficiently transparent and open to participation, for companies and civil society organizations, and how can the law guarantee the importance of transparency?
  • Is the division of power doctrine still relevant in a globalizing world, and how can it really contribute to new balances?
  • How can different legal systems work together to ensure democratic and judicial control and accountability?

A second theme is the transfer of politics and the promotion of public interests to actors other than the state and international organizations, such as informal international institutions, expert groups, but also private actors. Traditional forms of regulation through treaties and international organizations are making way for hybrid forms of public and private regulation (fisheries, deforestation, climate) and cooperation (public-private partnerships in the field of global health). This process offers opportunities when new actors, often with more resources and expertise, are involved. For example, the increase in scientific and medical knowledge (often developed in international contexts) and the availability of private financing offer opportunities to strengthen the promotion of public interests. The question is how the current globalizing legal order can optimally facilitate these opportunities. The transfer of representation of public interests also carries risks, because these actors are not embedded in the law and it must be ensured that the law continues to offer sufficient guarantees for the protection of public interests.

Research questions

  • How can public interests be legally safeguarded in public-private partnerships at an international level (health care, fisheries, certification)?
  • How can the law better facilitate the benefits of international public-private partnerships?
  • What conditions must international expert organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meet in view of their influence on democracy and justice?
  • To what extent can states subject non-state actors to national law through the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction – for example with actors such as Facebook and Google?
  • To what extent can (international) private law become a means for the realization of public goals by private actors?

Transfer of public interests to non-state actors

Effective legal protection


A core function of legal systems is to guarantee access to justice for citizens.

This not only concerns protecting individuals from power, but also optimizing the opportunities (access to services and products) that globalization can offer citizens. The process of globalization is fundamentally changing access to justice and effective legal protection. In a situation where the link between government and citizen is no longer decisive, where power is spread over different levels of authority and different actors, or where the government uses new forms of regulation (such as soft law or technical standards), similarly the protection of individual freedom, protection against arbitrariness, promotion of legal certainty and equality, and protection of vulnerable groups (workers, consumers, patients, minorities) undergo considerable change.

Research questions

  • How can the position of those seeking justice be protected in a situation where legal rules are articulated at different levels (national, European and international) and where effective power is shifted to private actors?
  • How can states offer effective protection against private actors operating from other countries by broadening their jurisdiction rules and new forms of cooperation, but having a transnational impact on fundamental rights and public values such as environmental protection and health?
  • To what extent does privatization of dispute resolution in cross-border disputes provide adequate compensation for the change in traditional legal protection?
  • How can the EU strategy for legal protection (for example protecting consumers against risks of a global digital market by improving their access to justice, including through the New Deal for Consumers), work effectively in relation to actors outside the territory of the EU?
  • In this changing environment, what is the role of supranational human rights as a safeguard for legal protection, given that they do not directly apply to actors other than states?