24 October 2017

Centre of Excellence, iCourts, receives grant of DKK 28 million to continue ground-breaking research on international courts


iCourts, The Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for International Courts, was originally set up in 2012, and has since made a significant mark on research into international courts and the globalisation of law. Last year iCourts underwent the Danish National Research Foundation’s compulsory midterm assessment and, based on the recommendations of an international assessment panel, the foundation has decided to extend its grant to iCourts.

International courts debated as never before

The on-going processes of globalisation has contributed to the proliferation of international courts. But what does it actually imply for law more generally when international courts acting at the supranational level gain increased power and thereby challenge the traditional anchoring of law in the nation state? And how do international courts maintain their authority and legitimacy? These are the kinds of questions that occupy the almost 30 affiliated researchers at iCourts, Center of Excellence for International Courts. And in the wake of several European member states’ criticism of the European Court of Human Rights, this research area is more relevant than ever before.

“The heated debate about the European Court of Human Rights highlights the need for basic research into the global transformation of law that is taking place today. There’s a pronounced need for evidence-based input to the debate – and more generally for a clarification of the contents of European and international law. iCourts is very active in both these areas and our activities include providing advice to governments and international organisations.  As an academic, it’s a particular pleasure to see your research translated into specific reforms that promote intergovernmental cooperation and a global legal system based on fundamental principles of law”, says Professor Mikael Rask Madsen, founder and director of iCourts.

A global research centre

Over the past five years, iCourts has positioned itself as the globally leading research centre in its field, and has attracted elite researchers and young talents from all over the world. Director Mikael Rask Madsen looks forward to continuing the research and further build the centre, which he describes as an extremely dynamic and creative research environment:

“Over the past five years our research has systematically documented and analysed the emergence of an international legal system in which international courts play an increasingly key role. Specifically, we’ve helped create a basic science understanding of when and how international courts arise and gain authority. This is also the starting point for our new research agenda, which will look at the effects of international courts on national law, politics and society. In other words, we’ll be radically shifting our focus from analysing the emergence of a world of international courts to exploring the worlds that international courts are creating. This is a huge research challenge, but one that has potential both for research breakthroughs and practical applications.”

With the Danish National Research Foundation’s grant of DKK 28 million, iCourts will continue its work as a Center of Excellence until the spring of 2022. The Dean of the Faculty of Law, Jacob Graff Nielsen, looks forward to the opportunities the grant provides:

“ICourts’ research on international courts is world-class. Professor Mikael Rask Madsen and the rest of the centre’s academic staff are helping to ensure that the development of international courts – which has been under political scrutiny for a long time – can take place based against the background of solid research. At the same time I’m pleased that iCourts’ basic research benefits our many law students. The Faculty would like to thank the Danish National Research Foundation for the confidence it has shown in iCourts and the Faculty as a whole.”