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Book Launch: Dr Sabine Hassler and Dr Onita Das 

Posted by Lauren Rees | 0 comments

On 8 March 2013, Dr Sabine Hassler and Dr Onita Das presented the results of years of dedicated hard work in the form of two books, respectively: ‘Reforming the UN Security Council Membership. The Illusion of Representativeness’ and ‘Environmental Protection, Security And Armed Conflict. A Sustainable Development Perspective’.

The event was attended by about 15 members of staff and students who praised the work of the authors.  Indeed, the publication of these two books is remarkable for a number of reasons. First, both Dr Hassler and Dr Das are former undergraduate and postgraduate students of the University of the West of England and, as such, are undoubtedly a testimony to the quality of our students. Second, whilst the books are derived from their PhD theses most of the effort put into these publications was undertaken whilst they were working as staff of the Department of Law. Writing a book whilst teaching, marking and publishing smaller articles is a daunting challenge which they have met with incredible success. Last but not least, the work carried out by Dr Hassler and Dr Das in analysing and developing international law contributes to the growing reputation of the International Law and Human Rights Unit which forms part of the Centre for Legal Research.

Both books deal with issues which are of great relevance in today’s discussions about international affairs. The Security Council, as the United Nations body tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security, has constantly been in the news in relation to its lack of (meaningful) action with regard to the conflict in Syria. One of the main reasons for this so-called inaction is the veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council. For decades, there have been calls for reform of this body crafted in the wake of World War II to reflect the Powers of the time. In an intelligent and coherent manner Dr Hassler gathers, compares and discusses in a single publication all these reform proposals. What is more she suggests her own version of the Security Council. This version looks at a reformed Council by starting from a tabula rasa perspective, re-envisioning its structure by abandoning membership categories and the privilege of permanent membership; proposing election criteria for becoming a member and determining duration of service; re-assessing voting rights where an individual veto is no longer an option, and, finally, considering its size by suggesting a workable Council membership to UN membership ratio.

It is worth mentioning that when research on Dr Das’ book initially began, the focus was entirely on the Security Council. However, as her research progressed, it became clear that no State, institution or agency could stand alone in dealing with environmental problems and protection relevant to security and armed conflict. Although the book in some circumstances focuses on particular institutions and agencies that are most relevant – the United Nations, Security Council and UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the overarching view of the book is that through collective international efforts, responsibility or action in this regard would be most effectively pursued. The distinguishing factor between her book and previous publications is her focus on the principle of sustainable development which, she argues, should transcend any approaches to the protection of the environment before, during and after an armed conflict. As the book concludes that law and policy in protecting the environment during the life-cycle of armed conflict is weak, Dr Das argues that the overarching principle of sustainable development and its sub-principles – the duty to ensure sustainable use of natural resources, intra- and inter-generational equity, common but differentiated responsibilities, precautionary principle, participation, good governance, integration and polluter pays, could be effective tools or objectives to contribute to environmental protection in armed conflict in lieu of the gaps left by existing law and policy.

There is no doubt that in the next few years, both authors will publish further articles developing their thoughts and suggestions and we are very much looking forward to reading their work.