François Prize

The Jury of the François Prize received eighteen submissions for this year’s Prize. Most of the submissions deal with a public international law subject. Only one submission concerns a topic of private international law. In 2014 also, the Jury had to conclude that the number of submissions in the field of private international law was lagging far behind when compared to the number of submissions in the field of public international law. If this phenomenon is indicative of the position that private international law currently occupies in academic education in the Netherlands, there is – in view of the societal relevance of private international law in a strongly internationalised society – cause for some concern.

The Jury has assessed the submissions anonymously. Neither the names of the authors and their supervisor(s), nor the names of the institutions at which they studied were known to the Jury when it evaluated the submissions. All theses were judged by the Jury on the originality and relevance of the subject, the systematic and logical way of thinking, the quality of the legal analysis and of the conclusions, the style and use of language and, finally, the presentation of the work. The Jury has not used the size of the submissions as a separate criterion, because it is aware of the fact that in some faculties the number of pages for a thesis is bound to a maximum.

After the Jury had reached agreement on a shortlist of seven submissions, these were discussed in a meeting held on 24 August 2016. The deliberations led to the unanimous conclusion of the Jury that two submissions stand out from the rest because of their exceptional quality. It concerns the following two:

  1. “Evolution or revolution? Evaluating the territorial state-based regime of international law in the context of physical disappearance of territory due to climate change and sea- level rise.”
  2. “The Ships of State and the shipwrecked. The (il)legality for states to create statelessness under international law.”

The first thesis concerns the question whether the concept of the territorial state can withstand the phenomenon that states may lose their territory as a result of climate change and sea-level rise. To that end, the author analyses – in the first chapter of the thesis – the classic concept of the state as a territorial unit, in the light of, among other things, the criterion of the 1933 Montevideo Convention and the famous statement of Max Huber in the 1928 Island of Palmas case. Furthermore, a broad overview is provided of the legal issues that may arise in case of physical disappearance of the territory of states. In the second chapter, possible solutions are examined, ranging from practical ones that focus on coastal protection or on building artificial islands or installations or the acquisition of new territory from other states, to developing a new sui generis state concept, next to the concept of the territorial state. In the third and final chapter, the author makes a case for a response to the problem based on new perspectives, such as the growing importance of individuals and communities as part of a cosmopolitan approach to social organisation, not limited by territorial boundaries as the basis for the formation of nations, the doctrine of ‘global governance’ and the concept of equity and moral duty of other states to continue recognising states with physically disappearing territories.

In the opinion of the Jury, this is an excellent and well documented thesis, written in a clear style. The author manages to develop, on the basis of a concise analysis on the evolution of the classic concept of the territorial state, and in the context of a focused and passionate argumentation, a personal perspective of the international law aspects of an alarming problem. The thesis distinguishes itself by its original structure and presentation of the subject. Moreover, and notwithstanding the complex and sometimes elusive issues, it is easy to read.

The second thesis concerns the problem of statelessness. It analyses where, in international law and human rights law, the boundary lies between lawful and unlawful deprivation of nationality by states when this leads to statelessness. To that end, the author defines the concept of statelessness and identifies the causes of statelessness (Chapter 1). In addition, the author analyses the right to nationality pursuant to treaty law and customary law and tries to find the basis and scope of the obligation of States to prevent statelessness (Chapter 2). Then the thesis looks into the question of the relevance of nationality in the context of the current state of regionalisation and globalisation (Chapter 3). Finally, the author examines how statelessness is either created or made possible by states (Chapter 4). All of this culminates in an attempt to answer the question whether deprivation of nationality resulting in statelessness must be considered unlawful in all circumstances and which general principles are relevant in answering that question (Chapter 5).

In the view of the Jury, this thesis provides a clear picture of the current state of the problem of statelessness. It is based on thorough research and is well documented. What strikes is the clear style and meticulous use of language. The conclusions are convincing. The legal analysis is generally good, albeit that sometimes it could have been a little more thorough. Nonetheless, the Jury feels this is an excellent thesis which has mapped an important topic in a clear and careful manner.

On the basis of the assessment criteria mentioned earlier the Jury has decided unanimously that the first thesis, on the effects of sea-level rise on the concept of the territorial state, be nominated for the François Prize 2016, and that the second thesis, on the issue of statelessness, be nominated for an honourable mention.

The Board of the Royal Netherlands Society of International Law has adopted these nominations. Consequently, the François Prize 2016 is awarded to Ms. Catherine Blanchard for her thesis entitled “Evolution or revolution? Evaluating the territorial state-based regime of international law in the context of physical disappearance of territory due to climate change and sea-level rise”, and mr. Martijn Keeman receives an honourable mention for his thesis “The Ships of State and the shipwrecked. The (il)legality for states to create statelessness under international law.”

Utrecht, 4 November 2016

The Jury

L. Strikwerda 
Chairman of the Jury

E. Lijnzaad 
Member of the Jury

Ch.Y.M. Paulussen
Member of the Jury


François Prize
Catherine A. Blanchard

At the Annual Meeting in Utrecht on 4 November 2016
the J.P.A François Prize was awarded to:

Ms. Catherine A. Blanchard

Click here for the text of the prize winning paper

A revised version of the paper was published in the Canadian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 53 (2015), p. 66-118.

mr. Martijn J. Keeman received honourable mention.