Essex to lead global project aimed at reducing civilian harm in war

  • Date

    Thu 15 Jun 23

A partially destroyed building damaged during conflict

A ground-breaking new project will seek to reduce civilian harm in war by addressing a legal blind-spot which fails to account for the cumulative impact of military action.

The Essex Armed Conflict and Crisis Hub is set to lead the £1.5million project, which will be supported by institutes and organisations across the world.

International law currently regulates individual military operations which could lead to disproportionate casualties but does not adequately consider the cumulative impact of multiple attacks.

This gap in the law fails to account for both the direct impact of civilian casualties, and indirect, such as infrastructure collapse, socio-economic decline and societal trauma.

The team, led by Professor Noam Lubell, of Essex Law School, will seek to address this loophole by drawing up a robust legal and policy framework which can be used by military and decision-makers in future conflicts.

Professor Lubell said: “There is a troubling disparity between the legal focus on damage and casualties caused in individual attacks, as opposed to the concerns of the affected population and public at large with the overall harm caused during war.

“This lack of a regulatory framework for addressing cumulative harm not only leaves some of the worst aspects of war unaddressed, but also presents a challenge to decision-makers who are in need of better guidance on this matter.

“Our project seeks to address this gap by developing a legal and policy framework to minimise cumulative civilian harm in war.”

The three-year project is being funded by the UKRI-SBE and will be called Cumulative Civilian Harm in War: Addressing the Hidden Human Toll of the Law's Blind Spot.

It will involve fieldwork, surveys and direct engagement with governments, militaries, and civil society organisations.

A key focus will be on the practice of the UK, US and Israel and the impact conflicts have had on Iraq and Gaza.

The investigating team brings together an interdisciplinary team of leading international experts in law, political science, ethics, and national security. It includes Professor Janina Dill (University of Oxford), Professors Anna Cave, Mitt Regan, David Luban, Todd Huntley (Georgetown University), Professor Mara Revkin (Duke University), and Professor Amichai Cohen (the Israel Democracy Institute).