With the pandemic dramatically reducing her packed travel schedule, Albany Law School Visiting Assistant Professor Dr. Alexandra Harrington had a chance to think about the future.
“Usually, I don’t have enough time to sit and ponder,” she said. “People started to talk about how do we respond to the pandemic, how do we manage it, how do we move on from it? It made me realize we needed to have more of a global governance discussion.”
In order to push that discussion, Harrington came up with the idea of the Center for Global Governance & Emerging Law (CGGEL) and launched it in October 2020, with her colleague Dr. Claire A. Nelson as the director for futures. CGGEL builds on the past two years during which she held Fulbright Canada Scholar and Research Chair appointments, which focused on researching global governance, which inform her upcoming book, “International Law and Global Governance: Treaty Regimes and Sustainable Development Goals Implementation.”
“It’s future-oriented. We often talk about law from the perspective of analysis going backward or in the moment. We don’t often talk about the future. We’re lawyers, we’re cautious, we don’t want to make guesses,” Harrington explained.
The CGGEL aims to bridge the gap between law, global governance, and scientific and technical perspectives on evolving areas of policy. So far, they’ve hosted several events, including, “Futures Inquiry Roundtable Discussion on Oil Spills and Ocean States” and “New Neutrality: Emerging Laws in Nuclear Weapons, Outer-Space, and Cyberspace.”
The unique topics allow law students to build on classroom knowledge, work as research assistants, collaborate with others including experts in the field, and have a structured opportunity to dive into intersecting topics they care about.
“Law students are becoming much more interested in the global emerging issues in law and how they can be involved and help guide them,” Harrington said. “I think it’s something good that has come out of the pandemic. Even if you’re in Albany, New York, you can be impacted. You need to be just as aware and engaged as someone who may travel for a living.”
One particular area has drawn a lot of attention, law and governance in outer space. Students have already connected with groups in Cameroon and other African countries interested in launching new space programs.
“It’s not all lunar landings,” Harrington said. “Some of it involves questions like who has the authority to put satellites in certain places across outer space and to use weapons in space.”
Closer to home, albeit virtually, Albany Law School President and Dean Alicia Ouellette and Dean of Faculty Research and Scholarship Christian Sundquist have supported CGGEL’s first few events.
“It is so touching and amazing to have colleagues come to your events and encourage their students to do the same,” she said. “Having the support of Albany Law School behind me has provided a great sense of joy. It’s so much a part of who I am and it’s wonderful.”
Harrington is also pushing CGGEL to be not only an academic project, but a foray into recreating a collaborative space while students are physically apart during the pandemic.
“The best part of the Center’s work so far has been helping people with feelings of isolation,” Harrington said. “It helps for students to hear about others across the world who are facing similar obstacles like online final exams. Plus, they can have conversations about bigger things too.”
Going forward, she hopes for CGGEL to continue to grow and increase student participation.
“I hope for it to become a place we can share our ideas and expertise but also a place where students can come and learn and leave feeling like they have had experiences they wouldn’t have anywhere else,” she said. “I hope it shows them what they can do with their law degree in a broader sense and understand what they can be.”