Prof. Jasper Finke researches at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at the University of Cambridge
The Lauterpacht Centre for International Law is quite a unique place for research on public international law in Europe. Fellows of the Centre and visiting fellows from around the world who work on a variety of different areas of international law regularly meet to discuss their research projects and talk about current developments and challenges in international law. This experience is remarkable in several ways. It not only broadens one’s own perspective, but also illustrates how law, among other things, is a cultural practice – something that is perhaps less relevant within a domestic legal system, but more so in the international realm – as it helps to better understand the practice of international law.
During his three-month stay at the Lauterpacht Centre, Jasper Finke continued to work on his current research project, which analyses dynamic developments in international law that arise in response to crises. What influence do factual changes have on the interpretation and meaning of law and how can we explain these effects from a legal perspective? In his research, Prof. Finke focuses on changes in the concept of self-defence after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Contrary to the widespread view that the attacks constituted an abrupt break in the interpretation of self-defence, we can observe that the concept has been in constant flux since the end of the Second World War. In other words, there is not continuity and change, but continuity in change – a perspective that also affects how interpretative change in general can be approached: instead of asking whether such changes are by way of exception permissible, it embraces them as regular legal phenomena. Thus, the question that arises is not how to justify interpretive changes, but rather what are its legal limits?
Apart from his research on law and crisis, Prof. Finke also began to work on two new, but related projects: the question of international law’s resilience in light of adverse events such as catastrophes and crises, and the challenges that international law faces in response to an all-encompassing understanding of international security. The latter project builds on the observation that today’s security threats are transnational in nature. The law’s understanding of security, however, operates with a dichotomous distinction between the national and the international sphere. The aim of the project is thus to contribute to the development of a concept of security law that meets the transnational nature of current security threats.