Centre for International Governance Innovation’s
International Law Research Program


1.     What is the International Law Research Program?

Based at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the International Law Research Program is a $60 million, ten-year, integrated and multi-disciplinary research and teaching program that will provide leading academics, government and private sector legal experts, as well as students from Canada and abroad with the opportunity to contribute to advancements in international law.

The law program was initiated on September 1, 2013.

CIGI is an independent, non-partisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, then co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry).


2.     What research activities will take place through this program?

The International Law Research Program (ILRP) will fund up to 19 fellowships at any one time to undertake research, educational and mentoring activities in partnership with government, universities, business and international organizations.

The ILRP will also fund up to 20 scholarships at any one time for the most promising graduate students to advance their law studies and join the research fellows in significant and relevant international law research projects.

In consultation with public, private and academic sector experts in international and transnational law, the ILRP has developed an initial work plan focused on advancing knowledge and understanding in three vital areas of international law, set out below. The ILRP is interested in empirical case studies, analysis of the efficacy of international law regimes and interdisciplinary research that considers the impacts on human security, rights and development. The following are the ILRP’s preliminary areas of focus.

  1. International economic law
    • international and transnational governance and regulation of insolvency and sovereign debt
    • multilateral harmonization of local regulations in the global value chain, including developments in private international law and adoption of the Ruggie principles
    • emerging issues in international trade and investment law, particularly:
      • governance of multilateral and preferential trade agreements
      • assessing use of investor state arbitration in diverse contexts (case studies)
  2. International intellectual property (IIP) law
    • green/clean technology
    • adaptation of IIP law frameworks for open innovation and collaboration
    • evaluating IIP rules and the advantages and disadvantages of multilateral versus like-minded or regional intellectual property (IP) instruments (case studies)
    • protecting IP rights while unlocking and commercializing IP from academic research — disseminating functional IIP knowledge to innovators (IP Law Clinic)
  3. International environmental law
    • assessing the efficacy of bilateral or regional environmental agreements versus multilateral environmental agreements
    • international or transnational governance and regulation of the extractive industry and energy sector, including UNHCHR (John Knox) concept of environmental protection as a human right
    • assessing international, transnational and local law-based and market-based approaches to reversing climate change (case studies)

3.     Who is eligible for a fellowship?

  • International law academics from university faculties of law, and other relevant, related or similar institutions
  • International law practitioners from the public sector
  • International law practitioners from the private legal sector
  • Academics or practitioners in related fields who can effectively contribute to multi-disciplinary research in international law

Canadian and foreign academics, and public and private practitioners with expertise in the focus areas of international law are encouraged to apply individually or through their organizations to the ILRP for full time, part time or consultative fellowships. Full and part-time fellowships involve a requirement to spend time in residence at the CIGI Campus and contribute to the development of a vibrant international law research community at the Campus.

International law professors who are considering research sabbaticals or an extended leave of absence from their university are welcome to apply for fellowships.  International law practitioners from the public or private sector are also welcome to apply for full time, part time or consultative fellowships, with appropriate releases from their home organizations.

Because the program is multidisciplinary, fellowships will also be open to faculty from other disciplines relevant to the work program.  Prospective applicants are encouraged to visit www.cigionline.org/careers for more information.

Duration and Compensation

Fellowship appointments are generally from one to three years in length, depending on the duration and scope of the particular research project. 

Salaries for full time or part-time fellows and senior fellows are comparable to university and public sector salaries. Where a potential candidate wishes to remain fully employed elsewhere, it may be possible to work out an arrangement with the home organization to allow the individual to be an unpaid fellow representing their organization or to be paid a modest fee for preparing a particular report.  CIGI ILRP will pay reasonable travel costs related to the participation of its fellows in conferences, meetings and symposia related to their research project.


4.     Who is eligible for a scholarship?

Scholarships and research opportunities will be available to exceptional students pursuing masters and doctoral level studies at recognized Canadian universities, who demonstrate a commitment to develop expertise in one or more of the CIGI ILRP areas of focus. Interested students are encouraged to visit www.cigionline.org/careers for more information. 


5.     Does the program grant degrees or course credits?

The program is not a degree-granting institution. Scholarship students are expected to enjoy a period of residency at the CIGI Campus, the timing and duration of which will be arranged with their home institutions.  CIGI’s intention is to ensure sufficient flexibility in its residency requirement to accommodate a variety of graduate program requirements.


6.     Where is the ILRP located?

The International Law Research Program is an integral part of CIGI and is based at the CIGI Campus in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The campus is also home to the Balsillie School of International Affairs, as well as the Academic Council on the United Nations System, and a number of research clusters including, for example, the International Migration Research Centre. The state of the art award-winning campus began construction in the summer of 2009 and it opened in 2011. For more information on the design and occupants of the CIGI Campus, please visit:www.cigicampus.org.


7.     When will the program begin its activities?

The International Law Research Program was initiated on September 1, 2013. Oonagh Fitzgerald, the ILRP’s founding director, was appointed in April 2014, and experts are being appointed as CIGI fellows to conduct and lead research within the program. An advisory committee has been established to support the ILRP’s development and search for the inaugural complement of fellows.


8.     How is this initiative different from earlier proposals by CIGI to develop a law program in partnership with a single Ontario university?

The ILRP is not seeking an exclusive relationship with one university but rather, is seeking to create a broad Ontario, Canadian and global international law research network of collaborative partnerships with individual experts and their home institutions. Located in Waterloo, Ontario, in close proximity to two universities and commuting distance to major international law firms and several law schools, the International Law Research Program is a locally funded resource with global reach.  The ILRP invites collaboration with Canadian and foreign international law experts from the academic, public and private sector, as well as with their respective home institutions. Because multidisciplinary research is relevant to the ILRP areas of focus, the ILRP also invites collaboration with Canadian and foreign faculties of economics, business and trade, environmental studies, and international affairs.  Graduate programs under the auspices of a university’s Faculty of Graduate Studies are viewed as a primary source of faculty fellowship as well as graduate student scholarship candidates.


9.  How is the program funded?

CIGI and the Ontario government are fundamentally committed to the 10-year program, with funding of $30 million from the province’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and $30 million from CIGI, enabled through a donation from CIGI Chair and founder Jim Balsillie.


10.  How will the program be governed?

The CIGI International Law Research Program is managed and operated by CIGI. The administration, management, operation and reporting of the law program is governed by CIGI’s governance structure. The ILRP develops and implements its program of work in consultation with international law experts from the academic, public and private sectors. On behalf of CIGI the director of the ILRP reports regularly to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities with respect to utilization of provincial government funds and progress on the ILRP work plan.

The ILRP is also guided by the advice and counsel it receives from the ILRP advisory committee. This committee brings together five-nine globally recognized experts in the principal areas mandated by CIGI and the law program. With membership drawn from those with outstanding international law backgrounds in research, teaching, and legal practice in the public or private sector, the advisory committee provides strategic advice and recommendations regarding the intellectual and programmatic activities of the law program. It assists the director of the law program and senior management of CIGI in developing a strategic plan, in reviewing program activities and in suggesting ways to enhance the program. The advisory committee is not a decision-making or policy-making body; it advises and recommends but does not implement.

The president of CIGI appoints the program’s director. The president of CIGI is appointed by CIGI’s operating board of directors and CIGI’s president reports to the board of directors on all CIGI activities including the law program.

View the ILRP’s advisory committee.


11.  How do I get additional information about this initiative?

For more information about fellowships, scholarships or program content, please contact: 

For media inquiries, please contact:

  • Kevin Dias, Communications Specialist, CIGI, at 519.885.2444 ext. 7238 or [email protected].