Good Faith in Public Law

Good faith constitutes a general principle of law. It refers to ‘a sense of loyalty to, and respect for, the law’; to ‘the absence of dissimulation, deception and fraud’; and to the ‘sincere belief that one acts in accordance with the law’ (Basdevant, 1960). Many civil law and some common law jurisdictions recognise good faith as a cornerstone of private law, obliging citizens (and/or private entities) in their mutual relations. Similarly, international law requires states (and/or international organisations) to treat each other in good faith. Certain jurisdictions stipulate a principle of good faith in their public law, too – be it in administrative law or even in constitutional law. For example, the Swiss constitution grants its citizens a fundamental right to be treated in good faith by the state. In turn, some of the citizens’ rights are contingent on them acting in good faith towards the state. Moreover, the different horizontal branches and vertical levels of the Swiss state must meet each other in good faith.

The IECL online conference on ‘Good Faith in Public Law’ explored the principle of good faith as well as its differences between the legal branches and the legal orders outlined above. The conference was convened by Dr Philipp Renninger (Lund University and Nanjing University, academic visitor to the Oxford Law Faculty in 2021), Dr Ewan Smith (Research Fellow at the IECL) and Professor Nick Barber (Associate Dean for Research at the Law Faculty and as such member of the IECL Management Committee). Twelve speakers from ten institutions (both universities and international organisations) based in seven countries gathered online to speak on four panels over two days. 

Recordings of the proceedings of the conference are below and a full report can be found in the IECL Annual Report for 2020-21.


Panel 1: Private Law

Panel 2: International Law

Panel 3: Constitutional Law

Panel 4: Administrative Law - 'Law and Leviathan'