CILCC - Centre for international law, Conflict and Crisis – University of Copenhagen

Historically, the primary objective of international law has been to avoid conflict and, failing that, indicate how best to contain it. To this end, it has relied on a conventional classification of conflict which had the effect of focusing attention on categories of strife and human suffering deemed to be amenable to legal regulation.

This selective focus which perdured over two world wars has come under increasing pressure in the course of the last three decades. As a result, the lines of demarcation on which the classification of conflict relied have become blurry, sometimes to the point of falling away. This has had tremendous consequences for international law. 

On the one hand, new forms of conflict have emerged that do not correspond to the traditional formats of warfare: not only do counterinsurgency and the global war on terror in its different incarnations require a different set of tactics and weapons but they also force us to re-think what war means and how it impacts constitutional order. 

On the other hand, war, formerly the exclusive domain of states, is increasingly becoming indistinguishable from conflicts that do not involve states and situations of disaster, natural and man-made. As a result, individuals have moved into the space that was formerly reserved for states, as agents and as victims, and states now find themselves under a legal obligation to act to remedy situations that were formerly seen to be beyond the remit of state action, indeed of human action. 

These transformations that have, arguably, been the most potent driver in the development of international law over the last decades, have been studied by military historians and by theorists of conflict. As of yet, no concerned effort has been made to understand how they affect international law, its application and the methods we use to study it, and how they subsequently spill over into public law at the national level. 

CILCC brings together specialist knowledge in public international law, constitutional law, military studies, political jurisprudence, and the emerging field of disaster law to study these transformations that are reshaping legal orders at every level.