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Gráinne de Búrca, LAW

Gráinne de Búrca is a professor at Fordham’s School of Law.

Gráinne de Búrca’s worldview expanded when she moved from Ireland to mainland Europe, and then to the United States. So, too, has her interest in issues of governance. de Búrca, a professor of law, now writes increasingly about international and transnational governance.

It is a timely subject, because as the development of the European Union (EU) and recent events in the global economy have shown, the era of truly independent states is largely a thing of the past.

International institutions such as the United Nations, World Bank and World Trade Organization; more recent transgovernmental networks such as the Group of 20 (G20); and the growing number of regional organizations such as the EU, Association of South-East Asian Nations and the African Union are more important than ever, according to de Búrca.

“Although the growing interdependence of states requires transnational governance solutions, there are problems of legitimacy and effectiveness,” she said. “People are deeply suspicious of what they perceive as faceless bureaucrats and elites.”

de Búrca came from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, to the Fordham School of Law in 2006. Having spent the last few years examining how the 27-member European Union works to address issues such as trade, social policy, anti-discrimination and anti-terrorism issues in her papers, including “The European Court of Justice and the International Legal Order after Kadi” (Harvard International Law Journal, 2009), de Búrca examines the EU’s influence on the international legal realm as an emerging global actor.

She cited the EU’s participation in the negotiation and signing of an international human rights treaty, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, and the recent G20 meetings in Pittsburgh. There, the group—which represents finance ministers and central bank governors from the world’s 20 largest economies—agreed to establish a system of “peer review” of each other’s economic policies in an attempt to respond to the growing economic interdependence of states in the global economy.

“It’s a potentially radical idea if you take seriously the notion that states, which conceive of themselves as sovereign entities, have agreed to open up their economic polices to one another for scrutiny and comment,” she said.

de Búrca sees her role as a cheerleader for democratic and other reforms within transnational governance, which are gradually becoming more open to such reform in part because their very legitimacy depends on it.

“The process of opening borders and states to one another, and reducing the barriers between them, is a positive development,” she said. “It’s, of course, in some respects a frightening one for many people, since globalization brings with it all sorts of perceived threats and fears and anxieties, but it’s also a cause for optimism and hope.”


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