IDHEAP’s Public Law Unit focuses on three research areas:

Public actors: The evolution of State activities towards the management of public policies, the development of cooperation and international agencies, or even the increasingly significant role of judges, are all trends which blur the traditional template of the State’s organisation and functioning. This evolution has led to the emergence of a particularly complex tangle of power relations and raises questions about the shape and challenges of contemporary public administrations.

Types of public action: In the field of public action, it is generally accepted that laws are produced by the State and that the State must then also abide by those laws. In a broad sense, the law is considered as the State tool “par excellence”. However, the concept of the law has undergone some remarkable changes. On the substantive side, matters of public law are increasingly regulated by international law. At the procedural level, we are witnessing a lessening of the binding force of legal regulations with the development of the tools of soft law. We are also witnessing the development of incentive instruments which are subsequently inserted into the legal framework. The themes needing regulation also stand out by their highly technical nature requiring the development of both formal and informal bodies, staffed by experts (whether internal or external) who advise legislators. This development favours the use of delegation. These substantive and procedural changes raise questions about the State’s traditional legal instruments, as well as how its regulations are put together, implemented and monitored.

Relationships with private individuals: The relationship between the State and private individuals is characteristically seen as vertical and unequal. The development of fundamental rights founded on the values of human dignity, liberty and equality have since modified the nature of that relationship. Those rights continue to shape the scope, purpose and limits of State action. Also, with the advent of new means of communication, new social transformations are also taking place, with a growing need to show respect for the values of transparency, trust and even participation in decision making. Since then, this research area has also aimed to investigate the impact of social transformations on the regulation of public administration and action.

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Prof. Sophie Weerts
Unit director
+41 21 692 69 60


Rue de la Mouline 28 - CH-1022 Chavannes-près-Renens
Tel. +41 21 692 68 00
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