Jennifer Welsh awarded funding from the James Martin 21st Century School to establish new Institute

Professor Jennifer Welsh has been awarded £455,000 from the James Martin 21st Century School to establish a new Institute within the Department of Politics and International Relations. Her co-applicants are Dr David Rodin (Philosophy) and Dr Dapo Akande (Law).

The Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) is an interdisciplinary research programme that aims to strengthen law, norms and institutions to restrain, regulate and prevent armed conflict. Drawing on the disciplines of philosophy, law and international relations, the Institute seeks to develop a more sophisticated framework of rules and stronger forms of international authority relating to armed conflict. The Institute’s research addresses all aspects of armed conflict, including the recourse to war, the conduct of war, and post-conflict governance, transition and reconstruction. In addition to becoming a leading centre for interdisciplinary research into the law, ethics, and politics of armed conflict, ELAC will constitute a significant new resource for teaching within the Oxford community. Triennially, it will identify a ‘signature theme’ for its work, and will disseminate its findings on that theme though public lectures, engagement with policy makers, and the generation of a Consensus Statement of Principles for the reform and development of the regulatory framework around armed conflict.

The Institute will undertake an ambitious program of research and collaboration that seeks to adapt the means of managing and regulating armed conflict to meet contemporary challenges. While many research efforts have addressed particular issues within the traditional Just War paradigm (such as, for example, the challenge posed by nuclear weapons), this Institute will examine the appropriateness of that paradigm for the 21st century. It will do so by focusing on problems that we believe constitute `stress points` in the current ethical and regulatory framework, and assessing whether reform or transformation is the best approach for resolving these tensions. The central concern of the research is the development of a more sophisticated framework of norms together with more robust forms of international authority to strengthen the management and regulation of armed conflict.

The Institute will integrate three fields of study into a unified program of interdisciplinary research.

(1) Philosophy and political theory: We focus on theoretical innovation through rigorous conceptual analysis, ethical-theory, and the development of new normative models.

(2) Law: We investigate how ethical principles may be instituted in a body of effective international law which regulates and manages armed conflicts.

We focus on opportunities to strengthen, clarify and (in some cases) change international law, including international legal institutions.

(3) Politics and policy: We analyse the limitations and possibilities of existing authoritative bodies that manage conflict today (including the United Nations Security Council and regional organizations such as NATO). We also examine how ethical and legal norms can shape new models of global governance and be in turn supported by them.

Jennifer Welsh is Professor of International Relations, University Lecturer, and Tutorial Fellow in International Relations, Somerville College.

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