Professional Ethical Judgment for Global Challenges

This interdisciplinary research project will study how judges, lawyers, and policy-makers can develop the ethical judgment skills necessary to adequately address contested global challenges, such as climate change or global access to medicine.

It builds on previous events organised by the Centre for Global Challenges.

This project brings together academics and students from different disciplines (law, ethics, governance, political philosophy, economics, and geosciences) with practitioners (lawyers, civil servants, and judges) to produce the following concrete deliverables: 1. Two expert meetings to prepare and submit a special edition to an international peer reviewed journal; 2. A special edition in an open access international peer reviewed journal; 3. An education module on professional ethical judgment for students and life-long learners; and 4. Social outreach events with strategic partners.

Today’s legal and policy decision-making professionals are faced with complex transnational, political and technical aspects of global challenges. These challenges cause uncertainty about the conditions for legitimate decisions and undermine the ability of local professionals to fully oversee the consequences of their actions. At the same time, it is the actions of these legal and policy decision-makers that co-shape developments regarding these global challenges, for both current and future generations. This places the professional before a responsibility for complex and highly-contested global challenges, thus increasing the need for professional ethical judgment, meaning the assessment of legal and policy questions and of case-specific professional dilemmas on the basis of a clear and explicit ethical frame of reference. 

Research Questions

This research project will study how lawyers, judges, and policy makers can establish a frame of reference for professional ethical judgment which enables them to deal with the questions and dilemmas posed by global challenges. It will focus on the following main research questions:

  • What theoretical points of reference (from inter alia law, ethics, governance, political philosophy, and economics) can best inform the professional ethical judgments needed to address the complexity and uncertainty of global challenges such as climate change and access to medicine
  • How can empirical insights (from inter alia climate science and regulation policy analyses) be connected to the frame of reference for professional ethical judgment in order to allow for evidence-based legal and policy decision-making? 
  • How can classroom teaching contribute to the development of the capability of professional ethical judgment for students and practitioners? 
  • What are the implications of the established frame of reference for professional ethical judgment regarding global challenges for the every-day practice of legal and policy decision-makers?


Read the latest blog by Laura Henderson: An Ethics of Just Judgment for Transnational Challenges


For more information about this project, please contact Dr. Laura Henderson