New Publication on the Laws Governing Humanitarian Assistance

Dug Cubie, The International Legal Protection of Persons in Humanitarian Crises: Exploring the Acquis Humanitaire (Hart Publishing 2017)

Dr Dug Cubie’s monograph examining the international legal protection of persons in armed conflicts, natural and human-made disasters and forced displacement will be published by Hart Publishing (Oxford) next month. In the book, Dr Cubie argues that the humanitarian imperative to support those in need, irrespective of geographic, cultural or religious links, is both facilitated and overwhelmed by the extent of information now available about the multiple humanitarian crises which occur on a daily basis around the world. Yet behind the images of devastating floods and earthquakes, or massive forced displacements resulting from armed conflicts, is the all too real suffering faced by individuals and families. From the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami to the on-going conflict in Syria, recent years have seen an increasing debate regarding the international legal mechanisms to protect persons in such humanitarian crises.

The International Legal Protection of Persons in Humanitarian Crises argues that an acquis humanitaire, or law of humanitarian assistance, is identifiable through the interconnected web of existing and emerging international, regional and national laws, policies and practices for the protection of persons caught up in humanitarian crises. Indeed, the humanitarian imperative to alleviate suffering wherever it may be found permeates various branches of international law, and is reflected in the extensive humanitarian activities undertaken by States and other actors in times of armed conflict, population displacement and disaster.

The book commences by interrogating the conceptual framework regarding humanitarianism and the protection of persons in international law, before examining the normative content of the acquis humanitaire. Specific chapters cover the binding and non-binding provisions in international human rights law, the law of armed conflict, international criminal law, international disaster laws, and refugee and displaced persons laws. The book concludes by noting that while a general legal right to humanitarian assistance may be in the process of crystallisation, its current status is contested. Nevertheless, over the course of the book, Dr Cubie argues that by clarifying the conceptual framework and normative content of the acquis humanitaire, gaps and lacunae can be identified and the overall protection of persons strengthened.

CCJHR-ISS21 seminar on climate migration

The CCJHR and the Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century (ISS21) Migration Cluster jointly hosted an inter-disciplinary seminar on climate migration on Thursday 2nd March 2017 in the School of Law, UCC.

Few people challenge the strong scientific evidence that anthropogenic climate change is a reality, and is negatively impacting many parts of the world. Indeed, one of the most oft-quoted consequences of global climate change is the possibility of large-scale human migration in response to rising sea levels, increased desertification, and intensification of natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding.

Therefore, this seminar considered the human, social and legal implications of climate migration from an inter-disciplinary perspective, bringing together researchers from the fields of geography, philosophy and the law. Professor Robert McLeman from Wilfrid Laurier University Ontario and Trinity College Dublin, commenced by examining why people migrate and the different categories of climate-relating migration. Professor McLeman set out a variety of scenarios, including amenity migration (for example people in China migrating away from urban areas to avoid extensive smog and pollution), seasonal migration arising from seasonal floods in Bangladesh or dry season migration in India and central Asia, and climate extremes such as Hurricane Mitch which prompted a pulse of short-term evacuations and distress migration. Professor McLeman concluded by stressing that we should not fear floods of climate refugees but focus on addressing root causes, building adaptive capacity and creating basic legal protections and rights.

Next, Dr Cara Nine from the Department of Philosophy, UCC presented on her research into two key aspects of climate migration. First, Dr Nine examined the issues of territory and sovereignty in the context of disappearing states such as the small Pacific Islands that comprise Kiribati and Tuvalu. Applying John Locke’s proviso mechanism to territorial rights, Dr Nine queried when a state or people might become a candidate to gain sovereignty over new territory due to the disappearance of their original state. Dr Nine then examined the concept of place attachment, defined as the positively experienced bonds between persons and their environment, and identified specific interests including autonomy, self-esteem and personal identity that affect an individual’s personal interests.

Dr Dug Cubie from the School of Law, UCC addressed the legal categorisation of “climate refugees” and identified the lack of an accepted legal definition. In particular, Dr Cubie noted the multi-causal nature of migratory decisions and that, except in cases of catastrophic environmental degradation, attributing causation to climate change was challenging. Dr Cubie also highlighted the importance of considering potentially vulnerable people who remain in their homes due to ill-health, age or other reasons. The right to remain requires the application of human rights principles such as participation, empowerment and accountability to ensure adaptation with dignity. In particular, Dr Cubie noted the rights of access to information, participation in decision-making and effective access to justice arising from Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

The seminar concluded with an open discussion with those in attendance on a variety of aspects, and the benefits of such inter-disciplinary events to share knowledge and experience across the university. For more information, see: