Professor of International Law at the University of Westminster Dr Hélène Lambert will be responsible for one third of a significant project aiming to develop a new theoretical approach to understanding the role of imminence as both a function of time and probability in international law in the field of international protection. This funded project is in collaboration with Professor Jane McAdam, from the University of New South Wales, and Professor Michelle Foster, from the University of Melbourne.

The project, titled The Concept of Imminence in the International Protection of Refugees and Other Forced Migrants: Towards a Coherent Framework, has been awarded a AU $360,000 Discovery Grant by the Australian Research Council (ARC), incorporating a Discovery International Award of AU $25,000 for Professor Lambert to spend two intensive research periods at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW, Sydney.

The project is significant as it will develop a principled conceptual and legal basis for understanding how imminence is used by decision-makers to justify or deny the grant of international protection to people at risk of future harm.

The project aims to make a groundbreaking scholarly contribution to the law on international protection, raising questions such as

  • If people cross a border to escape future harm, how imminent does the harm need to be before another country has an obligation to protect them?
  • Should international law protect only people who face the risk of immediate danger?
  • Should it also protect those at risk of harm that may manifest more slowly over time?

Commenting on the significance of the project, Professor Lambert said: "I am absolutely thrilled and really looking forward to working with two exceptional international scholars on a project of such scale and practical importance.

"I have a long-standing interest in forced migration issues - a dynamic and ever growing area of international law. And particularly in how law understands multi-causal reasons for displacement such as armed conflict, social disorder and economic collapse, because this understanding is key to whether or not a person is granted or denied protection against a risk of future harm."

Professor Lambert will specifically undertake doctrinal analysis of the concept of ‘imminence’ in international humanitarian law and on interim measures, and case law analysis of imminence in the UK, France, the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Professor Lambert will also be involved in a number of dissemination and engagement activities with key stakeholders, and in the writing of articles in leading peer-review and practitioner journals as well as co-authoring a major monograph.

Professor Lambert teaches at the Westminster Law School. She has acted as a consultant for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the European Commission and the Council of Europe. Professor Lambert is also part of the International Law at Westminster research group.

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