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William W. Burke-White

Professor of Law

William Burke-White

William Burke-White is the Richard Perry Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Burke-White, an international lawyer and political scientist, is a leading expert on U.S. foreign policy, multilateral institutions, and international law. Continue reading…

William Burke-White is the Richard Perry Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Burke-White, an international lawyer and political scientist, is a leading expert on U.S. foreign policy, multilateral institutions, and international law. He researches and writes on the relationships between law and politics in international affairs and has particular expertise on the design and implementation of complex global governance solutions that involve multiple countries, international institutions, and multilateral legal regimes. He has significant regional expertise on Russia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Burke-White is also a Non-resident Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, where he is engaged in a range of projects relating to the reform of the multilateral order.

Burke-White is working on a book project entitled “The New Geography of Global Governance and How International Law Got Lost.” Burke-White’s research examines how and why nation states have failed to respond to the most complex and pressing governance challenges of the day — from climate change to pandemic disease, migration to cybersecurity — and how other actors including cities, states, and corporations are filling the governance void. The project considers why the international legal regime has not kept pace with these emerging governance trends and how the reincorporation of international law could advance solutions to complex governance challenges.

Burke-White’s broader academic work sits at the intersection of international law and international relations. He has written widely on topics including multilateralism, changing global power structures, human rights, international institutions, and international economic law. Burke-White's academic writings have appeared in leading international legal journals and he regularly offers commentary in the media, including opinion pieces in The Hill,, The International Herald Tribune, and The Atlantic.

From 2014-2019 Burke-White has served as the Inaugural Director of Perry World House, the University of Pennsylvania’s new interdisciplinary international affairs institute. Building Perry World House from the ground up, Burke-White established a cutting-edge policy think tank embedded within Penn’s academic community and recruited staff, faculty and visiting policy fellows from across the globe. Through Perry World House’s two inaugural research themes, Burke-White helped drive research and policy engagement on the future of the global order and global shifts: urbanization, migration, and demography. From 2011-2014, Burke-White served as the Deputy Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

From 2009-11, Burke-White served in the Obama administration on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, where he was principal drafter of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, Secretary Clinton’s hallmark initiative to reform the Department of State and reshape U.S. foreign policy. While at the State Department, Burke-White was also responsible for issues related to U.S. engagement with international institutions, including the G-20, the G-8, and the United Nations, as well as U.S. policy toward the Russian Federation.

Burke-White has advised a range of governments, law firms, and investment funds on issues including U.S. policy toward foreign policy hotspots (including Russia, Venezuela, and Iran), U.S. and international sanctions regimes, sovereign debt enforcement and sovereign bankruptcy processes, and the impact of international legal rules and institutions on client's political and business objectives. Burke-White has served as an expert witness in a number of international arbitrations under the auspices of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. He is currently advising two sovereign states on potential litigation before the International Court of Justice.

He holds both a bachelor’s and law degrees from Harvard University, and a doctorate in international relations from Cambridge University, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He has served as visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Harvard Law School, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and Mofid University in Iran. While on sabbatical from Penn for the 2019-20 academic year he is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. In 2008, he received the A. Leo Levin Award, and in 2007 he received the Robert A. Gorman Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Articles and Book Chapters

Power Shifts in International Law: Structural Realignment and Substantive Pluralism, 56 HARV. INT'L L.J. 1 (2015).

Crimea and the International Legal Order, 56 SURVIVAL: GLOBAL POL. & STRATEGY 65 (2014).

Comparing the Approaches of the Presidential Candidates, 45 CASE W. RES. J. INT'L L. 369 (2012) (with Pierre-Richard Prosper).

The Adoption of the Responsibility to Protect, in THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT THE PROMISE OF STOPPING MASS ATROCITIES IN OUR TIME (Jared Genser & Irwin Cotler eds., Oxford Univ. Press Oct. 2011).

Reframing Positive Complementarity: Reflections on the First Decade and Insights from the US Federal Criminal Justice System, in THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT AND COMPLEMENTARITY: FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE, (C. Stahn & M. Al Zeidy, eds., Oxford Univ. Press 2011).

Standards of Review in Investor State Arbitration: A Comparative Public Law Approach (with Andreas von Staden), in INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT LAW AND COMPARATIVE PUBLIC LAW (Stephen W. Schill, ed., 2010).

Private Litigation in a Public Law Sphere: The Standard of Review in Investor State Arbitrations, 35 YALE J. INT'L L. 283 (2010) (with Andreas von Staden).

International Idealism Meets Domestic-Criminal-Procedure Realism, 59 DUKE L.J. 637 (2010) (with Stephanos Bibas).

Shaping the Contours of Domestic Justice: The International Criminal Court and an Admissibility Challenge in the Uganda Situation, 7 J. INT'L CRIM. JUST. 257 (2009) (with Scott Kaplan).

Shaping the Contours of Domestic Justice: The International Criminal Court and an Admissibility Challenge in the Uganda Situation, in THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT AT FIVE (2009) (with Scott Kaplan).

Bargaining for Arrests at the International Criminal Court: A Response to Roper and Barria, 21 LEIDEN J. INT'L L. 477 (2008).

Non-Precluded Measures Provisions, the State of Necessity, and State Liability for Investor Harms in Exceptional Circumstances (with Andreas von Staden), in LATIN AMERICAN INVESTMENT TREATY ARBITRATION. THE CONTROVERSIES AND CONFLICTS (Thomas E. Carbonneau, Mary H. Mourra, eds., Kluwer 2008).

The Argentine Financial Crisis: State Liability Under BITs and the Legitimacy of the ICSID System, 3 ASIAN J. WTO & INT'L HEALTH L. & POL'Y 199 (2008).

The Domestic Influence of International Criminal Tribunals: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Creation of the State Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, 46 COLUM. J. TRANSNAT’L L. 279 (2008).

Proactive Complementarity: The International Criminal Court and National Courts in the Rome System of Justice, 49 HARV. INT’L L.J. 53 (2008).

Implementing a Policy of Positive Complementarity in the Rome System of Justice, 19 CRIM. L.F. 59 (2008).

Investment Protection in Extraordinary Times: The Interpretation and Application of Non-Precluded Measures Provisions in Bilateral Investment Treaties 48 VA. J. INT'L L. 307 (2007) (with Andreas von Staden).

The Future of the United Nations, 155 U. PA. L. REV. PENNUMBRA 74 (debate with Professor Abraham Bell) (2006).

The Future of International Law is Domestic, 47 HARV. INT’L L.J. 327 (2006) (with Anne-Marie Slaughter).

Complementarity in Practice: The International Criminal Court as Part of a System of Multi-Level Global Governance in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 18 LEIDEN J. INT’L L. 557 (2005).

International Legal Pluralism, 25 MICH. J. INT’L L. 963 (2005).

Human Rights and National Security: The Strategic Correlation, 17 HARV. HUM. RTS. J.249 (2004).

A Community of Courts: Toward a System of International Criminal Law Enforcement, 24 MICH. J. INT’L L. 1 (2003).

An International Constitutional Moment (with Anne-Marie Slaughter), 43 HARV. INT’L L.J. 1 (2002).

Reframing Impunity: Applying Liberal International Law Theory to an Analysis of Amnesty Legislation, 42 HARV. INT’L L.J. 467 (2001).

More publications can be found here.

Working Papers


Research Areas

  • Public International Law
  • International Relations
  • International Investment Law
  • International Criminal Law
  • Post-Conflict Reconstruction
  • International Arbitration
  • Iran, Russia
  • Human Rights


Penn Law – Deputy Dean (2011- ); Professor of Law (2010- ); Assistant Professor (2005-10)

Council on Foreign Relations, Term Member (2012- )

U.S. Department of State - The Secretary's Policy Planning Staff (2009-11)

Visiting Scholar – International Criminal Court; Mofid University, Qom, Iran; Moscow State Institute for International Relations

Government of Rwanda, Constitutional Commission (2001-02); International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, The Hague (Summer 2000)

Princeton University – Lecturer in Public and International Affairs and Special Assistant to the Dean (2003-05)


  • Public International Law
  • Human Rights & National Security
  • Global Governance
  • Sovereign Bankruptcy
  • Transitional Justice

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