International law and Just War Theory have traditionally been structured around a series of rigid dichotomies that is increasingly difficult to apply to the realities of 21st century armed conflict. These include the dichotomy between the jus ad bellum and jus in bello, between international conflict and civil war, between combatant and non-combatant, between war and criminal activity, between a state of war and a state of peace, and between just and unjust war itself.

Video webcast: 'How we can effectively reduce or even eliminate armed conflict' Dr David Rodin describes the challenges ELAC aims to address (Oxford Martin School at the Royal Society)

ELAC’s research will be premised on two assumptions. First, the effective management and regulation of armed conflict will require a critical re-examination of the legal and ethical dichotomies associated with these traditional paradigms. Since their early articulation, Just War principles have undergone a process of creative adaptation to address political, social and technological developments. The Institute’s research seeks to assess whether this adaptive approach, leading to clarification and extension of Just War concepts, is sufficient to 21st century challenges or whether a new ethical and legal framework is called for.

Second, an effective framework for managing and regulating armed conflict can only be realized in the context of strengthened structures of international authority. ‘Authority’ refers both to political power that is recognized as legitimate and justified, and to the judicial and quasi-judicial bodies charged with determining whether states and other actors are in compliance with norms. Both are critical to the effective management of armed conflict, yet both are under strain in contemporary international relations.

We believe that the challenges of armed conflict cannot be met without significantly strengthening the authority of both international law and the institutions that implement and interpret it.

We develop this theme in the context of these more specific initiatives: