Simon Chesterman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Simon Chesterman
Simon Chesterman - 20091002.jpg
Born 1973 (age 44–45)
Nationality Australian
Alma mater Beijing International Studies University;
University of Melbourne (B.A.), (LL.B);
University of Oxford (D.Phil.).
Employer National University of Singapore Faculty of Law
Notable work One Nation Under Surveillance (2011); Law and Practice of the United Nations (with Thomas M. Franck and David M. Malone, 2008); You, The People (2004); Just War or Just Peace? (2001).

Prof Simon Chesterman (simplified Chinese: 陈西文; traditional Chinese: 陳西文; pinyin: Chén Xīwén) is Dean and Professor of Law at the National University of Singapore. An Australian Rhodes Scholar, he is also the Secretary-General of the Asian Society of International Law and Editor of the Asian Journal of International Law.

Chesterman succeeded Tan Cheng Han as Dean of the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law (NUS Law) on 1 January 2012.[1] Prior to January 2012, he was Global Professor and Director of the New York University School of Law Singapore Programme.[2] His research concerns international law, public authority, and data protection. He is critical of what he sees as the changing and increasingly expanding role of intelligence agencies.[3] Chesterman is the author or editor of thirteen books.

In 2013, he was appointed as a member of Singapore's Data Protection Advisory Committee[4] and in 2016 joined the United Nations University Council.[5]


Chesterman attended Camberwell Grammar School and graduated with first class honours in arts and law from the University of Melbourne, where he won the Supreme Court Prize as the top student, and was Editor of the Melbourne University Law Review. He obtained a Rhodes Scholarship and completed his Doctorate in international law at Oxford University under the supervision of the late Sir Ian Brownlie.[1] He also holds a diploma in Chinese language from the Beijing International Studies University.[6]


Humanitarian intervention[edit]

His doctoral thesis as a Rhodes Scholar, became one of his first books, Just War or Just Peace? Humanitarian Intervention and International Law.[7] Before publication as a book, the work had originally won a 2000 Dasturzada Dr Jal Pavry Memorial Prize for "best thesis in international relations".[8] One review article of this book by Nico Krisch in the European Journal of International Law described Chesterman's book as being pessimistic about humanitarian intervention, when compared to his contemporary Nicholas J. Wheeler who is more optimistic about establishing an international framework for "ideal humanitarian intervention".

Chesterman does not believe that "ideal humanitarian intervention" exists; according to Krisch, he instead belongs to the school of thought that argues that states should "justify their action based on political arguments" rather than relying on a "[humanitarian] recognition of exception to the use of force". Though the intervention would go against international law, it would be in Chesterman's words, a "venial sin".[9] As Krisch analyses, Wheeler also raises "plausible" opposition to this — it would create a "perception" that "powerful states" could ignore international law whenever they wished, pushing other countries to treat international law "equally cavalierly". Noting Chesterman's position, Krisch writes, "law loses much of its weight if its deviation from moral standards is openly admitted and other ways of justification are recognised." Chesterman further argues in Just War or Just Peace that the enforcement of the Iraqi no-fly zones and the Operation Deny Flight (the no-fly zone in Kosovo) went outside the framework of the United Nations, but Krisch calls this claim "overstated". Nevertheless, the book received an American Society of International Law Certificate of Merit.[10]

In Just War or Just Peace, Chesterman rejects the idea that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY)'s repression of the Kosovars represented a "supreme humanitarian emergency". Instead, as Nicholas Wheeler notes, Chesterman is "sympathetic" to Russia's historical argument before the Security Council (SC) "that the crisis did not merit an armed response". Going against the widely accepted view is that Russia's threat to use its UN Security Council veto against UN intervention in Kosovo was an act of "mere contrariness" to NATO, Chesterman instead argues NATO "never seriously contemplated that there might be genuine objections to the policies of NATO member states in their dealings with [the FRY]." Chesterman and his allies, Wheeler writes, would actually believe that Russia's official SC position matched its actual belief on the matter; to Chesterman, Russia would have changed its position had the situation "worsened along the apocalyptic lines predicted by NATO governments".[11]

Nevertheless, writing in the journal International Affairs, Wheeler concluded that "Chesterman has written a tour de force that exposes the weaknesses of the arguments supporting a doctrine of unilateral humanitarian intervention in international society ... Chesterman rejects the claim that states have a legal right to act as vigilantes in support of Council resolutions, even if they believe that this is the only means to stop a genocide. The powerfully argued thesis of this scholarly work is that accepting this proposition in law is 'a recipe for bad policy, bad law, and a bad international order'."[12]

As a Modern Law Review article noted, Chesterman condemned NATO's intervention in the Kosovo War as being "completely outside the United Nations system of security and a threat to global stability".[13] He later drew parallels between Kosovo and the arguments raised by Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea.[14]


Chesterman's book You, The People: The United Nations, Transitional Administration, and State-Building (Oxford University Press, 2004),[15] studies the foundation of new institutions in war-torn regions such as the former Yugoslavia and southeast Asia. Noting Chesterman's intent to highlight the mutually related yet sometimes mutually opposing "ends of liberal democracy and the means of benevolent autocracy," a review article in the George Washington International Law Review called it a "misdelivered message".[16] It was reviewed positively in the New York Review of Books by Brian Urquhart who wrote that "the weight of the subject and the depth of the research are supported by wit, candor, brevity, and analytical writing of a very high order."[17] Another review in Human Rights Quarterly stated that the book "speaks with the authority of a major global commission study and offers analyses and prescriptions with important implications for human rights scholars and practitioners."[18]

Intelligence agencies[edit]

More recently[when?], Chesterman has written on the regulation and oversight of intelligence services, including a monograph published by Australia’s Lowy Institute for International Policy.[19] In an opinion piece published in the global edition of the New York Times in November 2009, he argued for limits to the outsourcing of intelligence activities to private contractors such as Blackwater.[20]

Oxford University Press published Chesterman’s twelfth book in March 2011. Entitled One Nation Under Surveillance: A New Social Contract to Defend Freedom Without Sacrificing Liberty, it examines what limits — if any — should be placed on a government's efforts to spy on its citizens in the name of national security.[21][22] Writing in the New York Review of Books, David D. Cole said that Chesterman "argues convincingly that the specter of catastrophic terrorist attacks creates extraordinary pressure for intrusive monitoring; that technological advances have made the collection and analysis of vast amounts of previously private information entirely feasible; and that in a culture transformed by social media, in which citizens are increasingly willing to broadcast their innermost thoughts and acts, privacy may already be as outmoded as chivalry."[23]

Data protection[edit]

In January 2014, Chesterman published an edited volume entitled Data Protection Law in Singapore: Privacy and Sovereignty in an Interconnected World (Singapore: Academy Publishing, 2014).[24]

Other books[edit]

Other publications have focused on the United Nations, particularly the role of its Secretary-General,[25] and the rise and regulation of private military and security companies.[26]


Chesterman is a founding editor of the Asian Journal of International Law, published from 2011 by Cambridge University Press.[27] He is on the editorial boards of other journals including Global Governance,[28] Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding,[29] Security Dialogue,[30] and The Hague Journal on the Rule of Law.[31]


Chesterman speaking at the Rule of Law Symposium 2012 in the Supreme Court Auditorium on 15 February 2012

Chesterman has been author or co-author of various reports for the United Nations, governments, and private bodies. Examples include:

  • "The UN Security Council and the Rule of Law", arguing for greater accountability and circulated as a document of the United Nations in all UN languages;[32]
  • "Assessment of Implementation of Articles 3 and 4 of the Ethical Guidelines for the Government Pension Fund – Global", reviewing the ethical investment strategy of Norway's sovereign wealth fund and co-authored with the Albright Group founded by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright;[33]
  • "Asia’s Role in Global Governance", a report of the World Economic Forum's Global Redesign Initiative co-authored with Kishore Mahbubani.[34]


Chesterman's play "Everything Before the 'But' Is a Lie" was performed at Oxford's Burton Taylor Studio in 2000. It was directed by Rosamund Pike, who was then an undergraduate student at Oxford.[35]

In May 2016, Chesterman published his first novel, Raising Arcadia, with Marshall Cavendish.[36]

Dean of NUS Law (2012- )[edit]

As Dean of NUS Law, Chesterman oversaw the first review of its curriculum in more than a decade. Changes introduced included greater exposure to the legal systems of Asia and a grade-free first semester.[37]

Chesterman also launched the most ambitious research agenda in the history of the Faculty.[38] This entailed the creation of a series of new centres: the Centre for Asian Legal Studies, the Centre for Law & Business, the Centre for Banking & Finance Law, the Centre for Maritime Law, and the Centre for Legal Theory. This was said to be aimed at making Singapore a "thought leader" in legal research.[39]

Fundraising efforts included support from Singapore's Ministry of Law for the new research centres, as well as $21m to name the Centre for Law & Business after former Law Minister Edmund W. Barker.[40] Four new endowed chairs were established: the Sat Pal Khattar Chair in Tax Law, the Amaladass Chair in Criminal Justice, the MPA Chair in Maritime Law, and the Saw Swee Hock Centennial Professorship.[41]

A push to increase experiential learning and ethics included the introduction of a mandatory pro bono scheme in 2014 and the creation of a Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education in 2017.[42]

In September 2013, NUS Law convened the first ever Global Law Deans' Forum of the International Association of Law Schools. The meeting adopted the Singapore Declaration on Global Standards and Outcomes of a Legal Education,[43] which was intended to offer a “common language” for global legal education.[44]

Under Chesterman's leadership, NUS Law rose from 22nd in the QS World Rankings in 2013[45] to 15th in 2017, in the process overtaking Hong Kong University's Faculty of Law to become the top-ranked law school in Asia.[46]



  • Raising Arcadia (2016, Marshall Cavendish), 240 pp.
  • Being Arcadia (2017, Marshall Cavendish), 256 pp.


  • Studying Law at University: Everything You Need to Know (with Clare Rhoden) (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998), 176pp.
  • Civilians in War (editor) (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2001), 291pp.
  • Just War or Just Peace? Humanitarian Intervention and International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 295pp.
  • You, The People: The United Nations, Transitional Administration, and State-Building (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 296pp.
  • Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance (editor, with Michael Ignatieff and Ramesh Thakur) (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2005), 400pp.
  • Studying Law at University (with Clare Rhoden) (2nd edition; Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998), 155pp.
  • Shared Secrets: Intelligence and Collective Security (Sydney: Lowy Institute for International Policy, 2006), 103pp.
  • After Mass Crime: Rebuilding States and Communities (editor, with Béatrice Pouligny and Albrecht Schnabel) (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2007), 314pp.
  • Secretary or General? The UN Secretary-General in World Politics (editor) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 280pp.
  • From Mercenaries to Market: The Rise and Regulation of Private Military Companies (editor, with Chia Lehnardt) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 287pp.
  • Law and Practice of the United Nations: Documents and Commentary (with Thomas M. Franck and David M. Malone) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 648pp.
  • Private Security, Public Order: The Outsourcing of Public Functions and Its Limits (editor, with Angelina Fisher) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 247pp.
  • One Nation Under Surveillance: A New Social Contract to Defend Freedom Without Sacrificing Liberty (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 297pp.
  • Data Protection Law in Singapore: Privacy and Sovereignty in an Interconnected World (editor) (Singapore: Academy Publishing, 2014), 313pp.
  • From Community to Compliance? The Evolution of Monitoring Obligations in ASEAN (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 180pp.
  • Law and Practice of the United Nations: Documents and Commentary (with Ian Johnstone and David M. Malone) (2nd edition; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 736pp.



  1. ^ a b "Professor Simon Chesterman to be new Dean of NUS Law School" (Press release). National University of Singapore. 31 October 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  2. ^ NUS Law School profile Archived 20 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine., NYU profile
  3. ^ National University of Singapore, Young Researcher Award 2010 Archived 28 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine.. (24 May 2010). Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  4. ^ "Commission and Advisory Committee to Administer and Advise on Personal Data Protection Act". Retrieved 23 January 2013. [permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "UNU Welcomes 12 New Council Members". Retrieved 28 April 2016. 
  6. ^ "NUS Press Release, Annex 1" (PDF). 
  7. ^ "OUP: Chesterman: Just War or Just Peace?: Humanitarian Intervention – Oxford University Press". 7 November 2002. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  8. ^ Oxford University Gazette, 14 December 2000. Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  9. ^ Krisch, Nico (2002). "Review: Legality, Morality and the Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention after Kosovo" (PDF). European Journal of International Law. 13 (1): 323–335. doi:10.1093/ejil/13.1.323. 
  10. ^ "The American Society of International Law Past ASIL Award Winners and Honorees". Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2010. 
  11. ^ Wheeler, Nicholas, J (2001). "Legitimating Human Intervention: Principles and Procedures". Melbourne Journal of International Law. 2: 555. 
  12. ^ Wheeler, Nicholas, J (2001). "Book Review". International Affairs. 77: 687. 
  13. ^ Charlesworth, Hilary (2002). "International Law: A Discipline of Crisis". Modern Law Review. 65: 377–392. doi:10.1111/1468-2230.00385. 
  14. ^ Simon Chesterman, "Ukraine and International Law", Straits Times (15 March 2014).
  15. ^ "Oxford University Press: You, the People: Simon Chesterman". Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  16. ^ Marcella, David (2005). "BOOK REVIEW: MISDELIVERED MESSAGE: You the People: The United Nations, Transitional Administration, and State-Building". George Washington International Law Review. 37 (831): 296. 
  17. ^ ''New York Review of Books'', 23 September 2004. (23 September 2004). Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  18. ^ ''Human Rights Quarterly'', vol 27, no 2, May 2005, review by Richard L. Siegel. Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  19. ^ ''Shared Secrets: Intelligence and Collective Security'', (Sydney: Lowy Institute for Public Policy, 2006). Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  20. ^ Chesterman, Simon. (12 November 2009) "Blackwater and the Limits to Outsourcing Security", ''New York Times (Global Edition)/International Herald Tribune'', 12 November 2009. Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  21. ^ Oxford University Press UK. (24 February 2011). Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  22. ^ Oxford University Press USA Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  23. ^ "New York Review of Books", 22 December 2011. (201-12-22). Retrieved on 2013-03-01.
  24. ^ Academy Publishing.
  25. ^ Simon Chesterman, Thomas M. Franck and David M. Malone, Law and Practice of the United Nations: Documents and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); Simon Chesterman (editor), Secretary or General? The UN Secretary-General in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  26. ^ Simon Chesterman and Angelina Fisher (eds), Private Security, Public Order: The Outsourcing of Public Functions and Its Limits (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Simon Chesterman and Chia Lehnardt (eds), From Mercenaries to Market: The Rise and Regulation of Private Military Companies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  27. ^ "Asian Journal of International Law". Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  28. ^ "Lynne Rienner Publishers | Global Governance Editorial Board". Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  29. ^ "Taylor & Francis Journals: Welcome". Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  30. ^ "Security Dialogue". Archived from the original on 2004-08-21. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  31. ^ "Cambridge Journals Online – Hague Journal on the Rule of Law". Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  32. ^ UN Doc. A/63/69-S/2008/270 (2008). Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  33. ^ Government of Norway, National budget 2009, Chapter 5: The Management of the Government Pension Fund. Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  34. ^ Asia’s Role in Global Governance: World Economic Forum Global Redesign Initiative — Singapore Hearing, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Research Paper No. LKYSPP10-002, NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 10-09. Retrieved on 2011-11-04.
  35. ^ Review of "Everything Before the 'But' Is a Lie" in the "Daily Info, Oxford".
  36. ^ "Musing on Vampires and Writing a Teen Novel", Straits Times, 3 May 2016.
  37. ^ Tan, Amelia (29 January 2014). "NUS revamps law course to broaden knowledge". The Straits Times. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  38. ^ LawLink, January 2014.
  39. ^ New initiatives to enhance legal education and research at NUS
  40. ^ "NUS' Centre for Law and Business renamed after Singapore's first Law Minister EW Barker", Channel NewsAsia, 29 May 2017.
  41. ^ "Top Law Don from Yale joins NUS Law", NUS Law, 2015.
  42. ^ Sin, Yuen (31 October 2017). "New pro bono centre at NUS law faculty to boost chances for students to learn craft, support community". The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  43. ^ Singapore Declaration on Global Standards and Outcomes of a Legal Education (2013).
  44. ^ Ian Poh, ‘Introduce “Common Language” for Global Legal Education: NUS Law Dean’, Straits Times, 26 Sept 2013.
  45. ^ QS Rankings by Subject: Law (2013).
  46. ^ QS Rankings by Subject: Law (2017).

External links[edit]