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PhD Studentship: Moral Progress and its Political Limits: Alternative Forms of Intervention

Posted on 14 January 2014

PhD studentship at the University of York to study the responsibility to protect.

Deadline: 14 February 2014 (23:59 pm)

ESRC White Rose DTC Network Studentship

This PhD studentship at the University of York is one of three being offered as part of an ESRC White Rose DTC Network Studentship on "Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute: Its Problems and Alternatives." (For details of the other two studentships at the University of Leeds and University of Sheffield, please see Those interested in the Network are encouraged to apply for only one of the available studentships.

The Network Studentships are funded by the ESRC and supervised by the White Rose Doctoral Training Centre. Supervision will be coordinated across the White Rose Doctoral Training Centre involving the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield, and York. PhD students working in this Network at Leeds, Sheffield and York will be integrated into the existing White Rose Collaborative Network on R2P and the existing ESRC Seminar Series Network on R2P.

All the studentships start in the 2014/15 academic year and are tenable for three years.

York-Based Studentship

The York-based studentship will examine what alternative forms of intervention might best defend the notion of ‘common humanity’ as political and economic power shifts towards states that are less committed to R2P and the ICC. For example, the research could:

1)    Examine how more states might be encouraged to make "self-referrals" to the ICC

Opposition to the ICC has increased as situations have been referred to the Court by the UN Security Council (Sudan, Libya) or opened by the ICC prosecutor on his own initiative (Kenya). One alternative is for the Court to encourage more self-referrals (following the lead set by Uganda, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo). Although numerous scholars and human rights NGOs have been critical, self-referrals represent a voluntary (if highly self-interested) ceding of sovereignty and a consequent reinforcing of the Court’s cosmopolitan norms.

2)    Examine the normative and political factors that prompt states to prosecute crimes against humanity using universal jurisdiction, as well as the wider impact of such prosecutions

At a time when many African states are very critical of international criminal justice, it is striking that Senegal has just created a special court to try former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré for crimes against humanity (even if it did so under pressure from Belgium and the International Court of Justice). Universal jurisdiction, which has been largely overshadowed by the ICC, offers a more state-centric, and perhaps palatable, version of international criminal justice.

3)    Examine the use of other international norms and treaty regimes besides R2P and international human rights law to protect civilian populations

While Russia prevents the UN Security Council from authorizing military intervention in or an ICC referral of Syria, it has brokered a deal that uses another treaty regime – the Chemical Weapons Convention – to protect Syrian civilians.  This suggests an alternative framing of the issue may offer more effective means of responding to the demands of humanity.

The principal supervisor is Lars Waldorf (York) and the co-supervisor is Edward Newman (Leeds). For more information on this studentship, please contact either or


A full standard studentship consists of academic fees together with a maintenance grant paid at standard Research Council rates. Generally, UK students will be eligible for a full award and other European Union applicants will be eligible for an award paying academic fees only, except in cases where residency in the UK has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the programme of study.

Application Procedure

Applicants must complete the University of York ESRC WR DTC Studentship Application Form.

The application form must be submitted to Sanna Eriksson at the Centre for Applied Human Rights ( by the 14 February 2014 deadline.