Introductory Remarks by Tom Syring

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I would like to welcome you all to our panel on "International Norm-Making on Forced Displacement: Challenges and Complexity." While forced displacement continues to be a major humanitarian concern, the further development of international norms in this area has proven to be particularly challenging. This panel will highlight such challenges by looking at normative developments to address climate-induced and other forms of forced displacement; the use and legal significance of soft law in international refugee law; and the relevance and implementation of the principle of international cooperation with respect to refugee protection.

Norm-making, especially in the field of international refugee law, naturally depends on a number of different actors with a rather diverging set of interests. States are chronically reluctant to accept obligations that go beyond what has already been agreed upon in international treaties or is binding upon them based on customary norms of international law. For example, expanding the definition of what constitutes a refugee by extending the protection offered by the 1951 Refugee Convention to persons currently not covered by the definition of the beneficiaries of that Convention--be they "internally displaced persons," "environmental refugees," or other people forced to migrate--represents a complex and challenging endeavor. Hence, the title of our panel could not have been a more suitable one.

Let me introduce our distinguished speakers, who are truly international, coming from three different continents and four different countries. We have Guy Goodwin-Gill, who is a senior research fellow of All Souls College and a professor of international refugee law at the University of Oxford. …