I am a doctoral (LLD) candidate in public international law at the Stockholm University Faculty of Law and Junior Fellow of the Stockholm Centre for International Law and Justice. In my research I use legal and empirical (qualitative and quantitative) methods to understand the role and effects of law in relation to peace, conflict and democratic governance.
The preliminary title of my doctoral thesis is: International Law and Political Transitions after Armed Conflict. The project examines whether and how the influence of international legal norms – including those that concern security and stability, democracy and inclusion – shape the process and content of governmental and constitutional change after armed conflict. It explores how international law relates to, and affects, political negotiation and decision-making in a context of tensions and trade-offs between security and democratisation.
Prior to joining Stockholm University, I was a diplomat and legal adviser for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). From 2013-16, I worked at the Australian Embassy in The Hague, where I represented Australia’s interests at the International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice and Permanent Court of Arbitration. I have provided advice and analysis to the Australian Government on a variety of international legal and political issues and represented Australia in numerous multilateral negotiations.
In 2016-18 I was a Rotary Peace Fellow at the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, Uppsala University, where I conducted quantitative research on constitution-making after conflict. I have also worked as a consultant and qualitative researcher for the UN Mediation Support Unit and the Conflict, Security and Constitution-Building Program of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). Earlier I worked for Australian Red Cross as an educator and trainer in international humanitarian law (IHL) and interned with the UN Department of Political Affairs in New York.
I am admitted as a lawyer (barrister and solicitor) in Australia. I hold master’s degrees in public international law (LLM) from the University of Melbourne, and in peace and conflict studies (MSSc) from Uppsala University. My first degree was in law, history and political science (BA/LLB) from the University of Tasmania.
I am course manager and lecturer for the summer school courses International Law, Peace and Post-Conflict Transitions, and International Criminal Law. I also teach in courses on human rights law and legal English and have acted as assistant supervisor to students writing their master's (LLM) thesis in public international law.
A selection from Stockholm University publication database
South Sudan’s Permanent Constitution-Making Process Negotiations: The Influence of International Law and Public Participation
2023. William Underwood.Report
Based on interviews with actors closely involved in the discussions, this Weekly Review examines the influence of international law in the negotiations on South Sudan’s permanent constitution-making process relating to public participation. While international law was infrequently referred to in the negotiations, much of what was discussed and agreed resonates with international law. This includes that the main deliberative body must be representative of all sectors of South Sudanese society, that there must be public consultation, that certain groups must be represented in decision-making bodies, and that women must enjoy guaranteed representation. It is difficult to draw firm conclusions as to the influence and effect of international law during the negotiations, however interview responses are consistent with the notion that international law contributed to process design choices and aspects of drafting, as well as to political pressure for certain outcomes. International law was actively followed where perceived as useful, neutral, and locally relevant. This can have implications for how decision-makers and advocates approach international law in future discussions on the specifics of public participation in South Sudan.
Control of Military Forces
2022. William Underwood. Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional LawArticle
Democratic Elections in South Sudan
2022. Augustino Mayai, Matthew LeRiche, William Underwood.Report
This Review analyzes South Sudan’s readiness to conduct elections in under a year and reflects on why they are important. We start out with the discussion of the election’s fundamentals, then move to why elections are imperative in a post-conflict context. We then end our Review with policy perspectives that have the potential of improving/strengthening the process, preserving its integrity, and delivering credible and legitimate results, regardless of whether the elections will be conducted on time. Our stance is that the process, credibility, and associated legitimacy the elections need to produce are the most important elements rather than precise timing.
Emergency Law Responses and the Covid-19 Pandemic
2021. Erin Houlihan, William Underwood.Report
Emmanuel H.D. De Groof, State Renaissance for Peace: Transitional Governance under International Law, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2020, pp. 395; Emmanuel H.D. De Groof and Micha Wiebusch (eds.), International Law and Transitional Governance: Critical Perspectives, Abingdon, Routledge, 2020, pp. 165.
2021. William Underwood. Italian Yearbook of International Law 30 (1), 594-598Article
The Bougainville Independence Referendum and the ‘Duty to Consult’
2019. William Underwood.Other
Earlier this month, the Bougainville island region of Papua New Guinea (PNG), announced that almost 98% of Bougainvilleans voting in the recent independence referendum had voted in favour of leaving PNG. The referendum is a key element of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA), which, following a ten-year armed conflict, provided for special autonomy and a vote on independence to be held within 10-15 years. The result, however, is non-binding, and there have been suggestions that PNG may not be supportive of Bougainville’s secession. What then, are the legal rights of the Bougainvilleans and the obligations of PNG?
Interactions between Elections and Constitution-Building Processes in Fragile and Conflict-affected States
2018. William Underwood, Sumit Bisarya, Kimana Zulueta-Fülscher.Report
Show all publications by William Underwood at Stockholm University