Just Wars in an Unjust World

September 9, 2020 - September 11, 2020
MANCEPT, University of Manchester

Manchester M13 9PL
United Kingdom

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University of York

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Workshop title: Just Wars in an Unjust World

Just war theory today has to a large extent moved beyond the traditional conceptualization of war as being between two (or more) sovereign states. Just war theorists address questions and try to make sense of problems arising from non-international armed conflict, humanitarian intervention, insurgency and counterinsurgency warfare, and armed conflict which does not quite reach the level of war. These kinds of conflicts differ in various ways from the paradigmatic case of inter-state war, and may therefore require us to reconfigure our existing rules and requirements, or introduce new ones (for instance the jus ad vim framework).

Increasing attention is also paid to the wider context in which wars take place, or may take place. Although not quite a big part of the contemporary literature yet, some have questioned whether the vast resources spent on war might not be better used helping those suffering from extreme poverty. Others have investigated whether war on behalf of the environment or non-human animals could be permissible. As climate change rapidly progresses, the question of wars over scarce resources becomes more pertinent: may the requirement of just cause be extended to include defending a people’s access to important resources such as water? May we go to war in order to get access to vital resources which are unjustly being withheld from us?

This workshop aims to bring together academics of all career stages to discuss what it means to study just war theory in an unjust world. It draws our attention to a range of “big picture” questions about the role of (in)justice in just war theory, as well as the importance of considering the wider (unjust) context in which wars take place. All papers touching on this theme will be considered, as well as papers on other aspects of just war theory. Examples of particularly relevant questions and issues include:

  • Non-international armed conflict, insurgency and counterinsurgency, or revolution/armed resistance against unjust regimes;
  • The ethics of armed intervention on behalf of victims of injustice and those who cannot defend themselves (including non-human animals or the environment);
  • The use of the just war framework to analyse the (im)permissibility of a range of potentially harmful behaviours including terrorism, targeted killing/assassination, the arms trade, or financing of insurgents and armed groups;
  • The potential to expand the jus ad bellum requirements to include for instance resource wars;
  • The potential need to restrict jus ad bellum requirements in light of the resources being spent on war that could be used to do more good, more effectively elsewhere (for instance alleviating poverty or mitigating climate change);
  • The implications of injustices existing within the military (for instance discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, or ethnicity within the military; recruitment practices, or the lack of support for veterans and service members suffering from mental or physical health problems as a result of their service).

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August 1, 2020, 9:00am BST

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