Elena Cirkovic: Land Grabs and the Laws of War

Land Grabs and the Laws of War: Liberum Commercium, and Dominium in International Law Today

Elena Cirkovic

This research addresses the relationship between International Investment Law (IIL), military conflict (non-international and international), and current global reconfigurations of land and property rights through ‘land grabs’ by large agricultural users. The objective of this analysis is to provide a critique of doctrinal issues in specific cases of contemporary strategies of investor and host States, and public and private actors, as a starting point for a more general examination of the theoretical and practical underpinnings of international law. The project will narrow its empirical focus on the large agribusinesses and financial entities originating in the Western European States and their role in ‘land grabbing’ in Eastern Europe and outside of the EU. I counterpoise the phenomenon of land grabs and the changing nature of land and property rights ‘at home and abroad’, with other forms of expropriation and displacement due to armed conflict. Namely, while displacement due to war can constitute a violation of international human rights law (IHRL) or international humanitarian law (IHL), displacement due to large scale development projects, such as agricultural investment, has more ambiguous legal status. This is because of the way in which IIL views the rights of investors that are obtained through agreements with host states and the impact this has on any pre-existing land ownership.

Elena Cirkovic is an Assistant Professor at Bogazici University (Department of Political Science and International Relations). She is currently a resident researcher at the Higher School of Economics St. Petersburg. Dr. Cirkovic completed her PhD in Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, and she holds an MA in Political Science from the University of Toronto.
Dr. Cirkovic’s research interests delve into the dynamics of legislative and regulatory change (e.g. in response to the new phenomena or emergencies) and assess the role of global governance institutions as mechanisms that facilitate legitimacy. She takes a transdisciplinary approach to argue that different spheres of study and regulation are not as cognitively and culturally distinct but are engaged in a constant process of exchange and mutual constitution. Dr. Cirkovic has published in areas of international public and private law, transnational law, global constitutionalism, political theory, and citizenship.


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