Global Governance Centre
Carla Norloff

The Liberal Challenge: Equality and the Future of Liberal International Order

Carla Norrlof, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto
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Room S3, Maison de la paix, Geneva

Existing theories generally assume the Liberal International Order (LIO) promotes political and economic freedoms through international institutions and security guarantees. From this perspective, the current crisis of the LIO amounts to a rejection of liberal values. Yet these theories are vague about how the decline of liberal values undermines the foundations of the LIO. In no small part this ambiguity reflects imprecision about what exactly makes the LIO “liberal”. In her presentation, Carla Norrlof will fill this gap in the literature by connecting the failure to shore up a particular liberal value - the principle of equality - to the weakening of a core tenet of the LIO.

The presentation will situate the principle of freedom from discrimination in the liberal canon. It will then show how these liberal principles are foundational to liberal international order, even as their application has been irregular, displaying less progress on the political than on the economic dimension.  Further, it will show how failing to take discrimination seriously creates a permissive environment for far-right populism directly threatening the  institutionalized expression of equality and point to more indirect ways in which discrimination undermines the LIO.


  • Carla Norrlof, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto


  • Stephanie Hofmann, Professor, International Relations/Political Science, the Graduate Institute