Associate Professor Douglas Guilfoyle has been awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council Future Fellowship.

The ARC Future Fellowship program is funded by the Australian government and aims to support mid-career researchers to pursue a four-year research project. Projects which receive funding will benefit Australia’s economic, commercial, environmental, social, and cultural capabilities.

“The focus of my research is the impact of international law on international security,” A/Prof. Guilfoyle said.

“In particular, I am interested in maritime security, international criminal law, and international courts and tribunals.”

A/Prof. Guilfoyle recognises the unique environment of UNSW Canberra as a contributor to the success of his research.

“Teaching courses on international and national security law to non-law students, many from defence backgrounds, has sharpened my perspective on the role of international law in international relations, and the use of law as an instrument of politics and statecraft,” A/Prof. Guilfoyle said.

Having stable funding through this fellowship for this four-year period presents A/Prof. Guilfoyle with a rare opportunity: he will be able to rigorously examine the use of law of the sea litigation by small states against great powers to achieve strategic objectives.

“It’s a chance to really sink my teeth into a big question in a way that I haven’t since doctoral study,” A/Prof. Guilfoyle said.

"Personally, it's also a huge vote of confidence from my peers in the quality of my research and the potential of my project, for which I am grateful.

“When it comes down to final choices about who is funded and who is not, there will always be an element of luck.

“I was very fortunate in that I had mentoring and support from friends and colleagues who had been successful in similar schemes in the past, as well as the support of a fabulous research office at UNSW.

“Without that kind of help, it’s a bit like trying to compete in an Olympic event having only read the rules. No one who succeeds in this kind of scheme does so alone, and many more deserve such support than receive it.”

A/Prof. Guilfoyle will be looking at cases such as that of the Philippines pursuing arbitration against China in the South China Sea dispute.

“One of the questions here is ‘why is the law an attractive option for those in a weak position, and what do they hope to achieve by litigating?’” A/Prof. Guilfoyle said.

Other important examples will include the examination of proceedings brought by Mauritius against the UK over the disputed Chagos Archipelago, proceedings brought by Ukraine against Russia over maritime entitlements following the invasion of Crimea, and the maritime boundary dispute between Australia and Timor Leste.

A/Prof. Guilfoyle explained that there is a possibility of small island nations engaging in similar climate change litigation in the future – and deepening our understanding of the interactions between international law and international security will be critical to navigating this potential future for maritime law.