Law Lecturer awarded Oxford Nicolas Berggruen Prize for Best Doctoral Dissertation in Philosophy, Law, and Politics

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Liverpool Law School Lecturer, Dr Katie Johnston, has been announced as the winner of the Oxford Nicolas Berggruen Prize for Best Doctoral Dissertation in Philosophy, Law, and Politics 2023 by the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford. The 2023 prize was awarded for to Katie for her dissertation titled ‘The Impact of the Coexistence of Multiple Norms from Different Sources of International Law on Change to the Jus ad Bellum’.

In her dissertation, Johnston ‘analysed what would be required as a matter of international law to establish that a new exception to the prohibition on the use of force by states has come into existence, or that the content or scope of the existing exceptions of self-defence and collective security have changed’ arguing that ‘while it is not impossible to create new exceptions to the prohibition on force, the complex structure of the law on the use of force means such changes will not be easily achieved. By contrast, certain changes to the conditions for the exercise of self-defence or the authorisation of force by the Security Council may occur more easily.’

The result was a thesis that was, in the words of the examiners, "an outstanding piece of work and will make a notable contribution to the field", and that, according to the advice of the examination board, is now being transformed into a monograph for publication.

Speaking on having been awarded the prize, Dr Katie Johnston shared:

"I am honoured to be awarded the Oxford Nicolas Berggruen Prize and grateful to everyone at Oxford and beyond who supported me throughout my DPhil research. It is important that when states claim to be using military force against other states in accordance with international law these legal claims are subject to rigorous scrutiny – particularly where they are based on novel or controversial analyses of the law. I hope that my thesis has contributed to clarifying the complex international legal framework that regulates the use of force by states, so that such claims of lawfulness can be properly evaluated."

This prestigious prize is funded by Nicolas Berggruen of the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles. Each year the prize is awarded to the work that is both excellent and transformative in either theory or practice. One dissertation is nominated by each of the three faculties in Oxford (Philosophy, Law, and DPIR) every year, and then selection of the prize dissertation is made among the three highly impressive nominees by a committee constituted by the terms of the prize.

In 2022, Dr Katie Johnston joined the School of Law and Social Justice at the University of Liverpool as a Lecturer of Law. Her primary area of research is public international law, and she has particular interests in the law on the use of force (jus ad bellum) and the sources of international law. Katie teaches on modules covering International Dispute Settlement, Principals of International Law, Public Law, and the Foundations of Law and Social Justice in the School of Law of Social Justice. 

Access the original article published by the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford.


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