15 Mar 2018

The Chr. Michelsen Prize 2018 to Maja Janmyr

The committee has decided to award the Chr. Michelsens prize for outstanding development research («Chr. Michelsens pris for fremragende utviklingsforskning») for 2018 to Maja Janmyr for her article No Country of Asylum: ‘Legitimizing’ Lebanon’s Rejection of the 1951 Refugee Convention, published in International Journal of Refugee Law (2017).

Maja Janmyr is a professor in international migration law at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo. Her research has focussed on the Middle East and refugees. Janmyr holds a PhD in International Law from the University of Bergen, and is an affiliated scholar at the American University of Beirut. Janmyr is also a member of the Young Academy of Norway (Akademiet for yngre forskere) and serves on the Steering Committee of the Center for Law and Social Transformation, located in Bergen. She has previously been a member of the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights’ Prize Committee. Janmyr received the Meltzer Young Researcher Award in 2014 for outstanding scientific achievements for her book Protecting Civilians in Refugee Camps: Unwilling and Unable States, UNHCR and International Responsibility (2014).

The nominated paper No Country of Asylum: ‘Legitimizing’ Lebanon’s Rejection of the 1951 Refugee Convention is a significant contribution to our understanding of how states legitimize their non-ratification and why they decide to do so for real or perceived reasons. Lebanon and its continued rejection of ratifying the Refugee Convention represents an interesting and to some extent paradoxical case, as Lebanon engaged actively in the establishment of the international refugee regime. The resistance is, in part, based on a widespread and real, or simply politically expedient, uncertainty as to the obligations that come with the Convention, for example, that ratification would imply permanent settlement of refugees in its territory. Further, the very term ‘refugee’ is contentious as it might be regarded as an unfriendly act towards the Arab neighbours.

Janmyr addresses a gap in the literature on ratification and international law, which often views states like a group and takes a top-down perspective. The article demonstrates the need to consider the consequences of ratification as seen by individual states. It is exemplary in the way it maps out the larger context that shape the states’ decisions. “Deficiencies” and “challenges” in the way states relate to such regimes are both pragmatic and rational political decisions taken within a complex historical, political and socioeconomic context.

The article is very well written. The author maintains a good balance between impartial observations and own assessments of the arguments, the latter making the article even more exciting to read.

Overall, the article represents a significant contribution to the study of refuge law, and the functioning of international conventions and global governance regimes in general. The committee therefore finds Maja Janmyr to be a very worthy winner of the Chr. Michelsen’s prize for outstanding development research, 2018.

The members of the prize committee are Arild Angelsen (Norwegian University of Life Sciences), Sidsel Roalkvam (the University of Oslo) and Solbjørg Sjøveian (Norad)