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Law in Crisis? Analysing the Challenge of Making Laws Work in and after Disasters and Crises Passed

Wednesday September 22, 2021 13:30 - 14:40 E

Workshop leader: Sari Kouvo
Presenters: Andreas Moberg, Matthew Scott, Sari Kouvo

  • Scenario Analysis as a Method in Legal Science, Andreas Moberg  
  • Pandemic preparedness and response in human rights-based multi-level governance perspective: Insights from four municipalities in Zimbabwe, Matthew Scott
  • Different Language, Different Law? An Analysis of Key Concepts used in Swedish and EU Crisis Management Legislation, Sari Kouvo

Panel description

The panel takes stock of how law functions in crisis. Key questions that the panel seeks to answer are: How are laws – including national, regional and international laws – used as instruments to deal with crisis? How do laws enable or restrain action by governments and other actors during crisis? How can laws help protect democracy, rights and freedoms and institutional accountability during and after crisis? That is, what is the ‘optimal balance’ of executive power and constitutional safeguards for crisis situations? And, importantly, how do we study what law does in crisis? What methods do we use to decipher law in crisis?

While the intention of the panel is not to focus primarily or solely on the Covid-19 pandemic, it can here be used to exemplify what law in crisis can be taken to mean. A comparative outlook shows that although most countries have undertaken similar measures to deal with the health crisis, the legal strategies that have enabled these measures have been quite different. National legal strategies have ranged from continuing business as usual, adopting a series of regulations using either regular law or different forms of emergency power, to proclaiming states of emergencies. Focusing just on Europe, governments have also chosen very different strategies vis-à-vis the EU and its civil protection frameworks and the Council of Europe and derogations from the European Convention on Human Rights. There has also been opportunism: the power of governments and their security forces have been enhanced, independent oversight mechanisms have been sidelined and regulations are being fast tracked while the attention of opposition groups and human rights watchdogs is elsewhere.

The rule of law, the idea that nobody’s above the law and that law protects the democratic system, is fundamental for contemporary societies. However, what the Covid19 pandemic shows is that there is not one way to uphold the rule of law in a crisis, but also that it is not evident to uphold the rule of law in the midst of a crisis. The tensions or ruptures in the rule of law and especially its role in protecting democracy are particularly prevalent in situations where a crisis lingers on, overlaps with or transforms into other crises, puts a strain on basic societal functions, or is normalized. Understanding and analyzing these developments is important for legal scholars, but also for all those interested in understanding societal responses to, and resilience in, crises.

For this panel, we welcome especially papers that focus on how contemporary legal systems – national, regional and international – function in and may change in crisis, especially in prolonged, complex crisis situations. We also welcome papers that focus on what methodologies to use and how to analyze the effects of such crisis situations on contemporary legal systems.

The panel is organised by the research group Law, Society and the Extraordinary (LaSE) at the Department of Law at the University of Gothenburg. The panel is part of the LaSE’s ongoing project “The legal framework for civil protection and preparedness” funded by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency.

For more information about LaSE: https://lawsocietyextraordinary.net/forskargrupp

For questions and queries about the panel, please contact Associate Professor Sari Kouvo at sari.kouvo@law.gu.se


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Sari Kouvo Workshop leader

Associate Professor
Department of Law, Gothenburg university

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Andreas Moberg Presenter

Department of Law, University of Gothenburg

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Matthew Scott Presenter

Senior researcher in human rights, disasters and displacement
Raoul Wallenberg Institute

Matthew Scott is head of the People on the Move thematic area at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Lund, Sweden. His area of expertise lies in legal and policy responses to internal and cross-border displacement in the context of disasters and climate change. In this space, he has published a monograph with Cambridge University Press entitled Climate Change, Disasters and the Refugee Convention, an edited volume with Routledge entitled Climate Change, Disasters and Internal Displacement in Asia and the Pacific: A Human Rights-Based Approach, along with a range of book chapters and academic articles on the subject. He is a member of the advisory committee of the Platform on Disaster Displacement, a member of the editorial board of the Yearbook of International Disaster Law, and a founding member of the Nordic Network on Climate Related Displacement and Mobility, and the Gothenburg, Lund, Uppsala Migration Law Network. He holds a PhD in Public International Law from Lund University, and a Masters degree in Social Anthropology of Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

At Lund University, he convenes the Masters-level course on human rights law, the environment and climate change, and lectures on international refugee law and international human rights law at the law faculty. He also contributes to the MSc in Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation at the Department of Risk Management and Societal Safety.

Matthew is also actively engaged in international collaboration initiatives at the intersection of disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and displacement. In this capacity he is currently contributing technical expertise on human rights-based approaches relating to land use planning and emergency preparedness for response.

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Sari Kouvo Presenter

Associate Professor
Department of Law, Gothenburg university