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The 'Unwilling or Unable State' as a Challenge to International Law: Contextualisation of and Critical Reflection on a Notion
Paulina Starski (Max Planck Heidelberg)

  • Room 920, Melbourne Law School 185 Pelham Street Carlton, VIC, 3053 Australia (map)
Paul Nash,  Ruined Country  (1917).

Paul Nash, Ruined Country (1917).

The notion of the ‘unwilling or unable state’ has recently lived through a renaissance in international law and international relations discourse. This revival has been particularly initiated by the increasing significance of threats stemming from non-state actors acting from the territory of states that fail to prevent their terrorist endeavours. Hence, it is closely entangled with the debate on the right to self-defence.

This seminar sketched how the notion of the ‘unwilling or unable state’ is employed within the international legal and political discourse, depicted what normative implications are attributed to it by the various discourse participants, reflected on the conceptual challenges connected with it, critically assessed how it fits into the scheme of existing international legal rules and highlighted its potential dangers.

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Dr Paulina Starski is a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg as well as a postdoctoral fellow at the Bucerius Law School in Hamburg. In 2017, she was a Hauser Postdoctoral Global Fellow at the NYU School of Law. Currently she is conducting research at the University of Melbourne Law School as a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Postdoctoral Visiting Fellow. She holds degrees from Bucerius — LLB as well as PhD (summa cum laude) — and conducted part of her law studies at the University of Sydney Law School. Her PhD on the Interfederal Administrative Act (Mohr Siebeck, 2014) focuses on constitutional and administrative challenges of German federalism viewed from a comparative perspective. Her postdoctoral thesis (Habilitation) is on the topic ‘The Unwilling or Unable State as a Challenge to International Law’ and funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation as well as the Daimler and Benz Foundation.

Her academic interests lie in the field of public international law, in particular, the regime on the use of force, international legal theory, the notion of state sovereignty, international human rights law. She also has interests in European law and German and comparative constitutional law (recently with a particular focus on Polish constitutional law).