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Addressing global anxieties: the Head of Brunel Law School's global law research perspective

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Prof Arad Reisberg, Head of the Brunel Law School, spoke yesterday at the Global Law Schools Summit (supported by the Jindal Global Law School, one of Brunel Law School’s strategic partners) on the topic of addressing global anxieties from the perspective of research in global law.

His talk, which can be viewed as part of the recording of the event, is reproduced here with permission:


We are now at a stage in the development and the global anxieties we face these days where trust is the foundation of everything that we do. So when we say that there is now a global crisis in all those areas – the pandemic, financial institutions, politicians, government – there is now a global trust crisis.

We come to a stage in the evolution of societies, and in global law, where we say on the one hand not to trust politicians, bankers and institutions, but at the same time, we can trust strangers. We share a ride with them in Uber, or we view our Facebook friends, and we look at them as more trustworthy than those in institutions and government. So there is a question that we are in what some would call a distributed trust crisis. We're in a situation in the world right now where there is a number of issues that we want to bring together to put to those we put in a position of power to solve, but at the same time we do not really trust them to resolve it, whether it's banks, governments, and so on.

There is something to be said about what I call the genuine voice and the influence of the people on the ground on institutions. So there are a lot of voices on the ground showing uneasiness. We see that a lot, such as on the streets of Glasgow during COP26. I think those voices are airing that concern. They're very genuine and real concerns. They are, I would say, existential concerns, whether they have to do with the environment or the pandemic. So while there is more and more that needs us to work together, there are more and more fragmented causes, interests, and so on.

In my area of expertise, in corporate law, I have for many years been teaching my students and writing about the frustration that there is this competition between jurisdictions to attract business, to attract corporations, yet the multinational corporations are the ones who are actually dominating a lot of conversations – but we do not hold them accountable. So, for example, on taxation, the recent treaty, tries to introduce coordination between countries on taxation of multinational corporations. This is one example of a way forward. It's not going to change overnight, but it’s about symbolic gestures to bring back trust in those institutions.

I feel when I teach my students that I'm in a different generation to them. The generation of students we see in the classroom are really, really concerned. They really care about where we live, and they're asking us why we aren't taking any action. So I have hope that by them pushing and inputting into the agenda, there will be some change, there will be some shift, almost by necessity. But I do not think that it's going to be the governments themselves that are going to make this breakthrough.

Health is not my expertise, but of course, the pandemic is the biggest crisis that we are facing at the moment – and it's an ongoing crisis. If people, such as in South Africa, feel ready to come forward and say, very quickly, that we have identified a variant, we knew we're going to suffer the consequences financially and business-wise, but we are honest enough – then you gain trust. If you gain trust, we may get cooperation. If there is cooperation, we may get some solutions. I think that's the only way forward, but there are some contrasting voices and themes at the moment.


Prof Reisberg also made comments as part of a panel discussion, which can be viewed here.