Professor Stephen Humphreys

Professor Stephen Humphreys

Professor of Law

LSE Law School

Room No
Cheng Kin Ku Building 6.15
English, French, Hungarian
Key Expertise
international law, climate change, human rights, data governance

About me

Stephen Humphreys is a Professor of International Law. He is a Commissioner on the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law. He was a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C and Academic Advisor to the International Bar Association’s Task Force on Climate Justice and Human Rights. He was formerly Research Director at the International Council on Human Rights Policy in Geneva, and, before that, Senior Officer at the Open Society Institute’s Justice Initiative in New York and Budapest. He has conducted policy work on climate change and in human rights in a variety of fora. His research interests include international legal and critical theory; rule of law; law and development; climate change; the laws of war; and transnational legal processes. He holds a PhD from Cambridge and a Master’s degree in law from SOAS. His publications include Theatre of the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and the edited volume, Human Rights and Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Administrative support:

Research interests

Current research focuses on the distribution of risk and security under international and transnational law. The work looks at various different areas of law — international security arrangements, international criminal law, environmental law, investment and trade law, transnational developmental and financial arrangements — in order to gauge their overall impact in combination on the experience of risk. I retain a special interest in climate change and human rights, in legal theory, drawing in particular on critical theory, and in rule of law promotion, the contemporary form of law and development.

External activities





Theatre of the Rule of Law: Transnational Legal Intervention in Theory and Practice (Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law No.73; 2010; paperback edition published 2012)

Theatre of the Rule of Law presents the first sustained critique of rule of law promotion – the push to shape laws and institutions that pervades international development and post-conflict reconstruction policy today. While successful in disseminating a policy everywhere privileging the private over the public, this expansive global enterprise has largely failed in its stated goals of alleviating poverty and fortifying ‘fragile states’. Moreover, in its execution, the field deviates sharply from ‘rule of law’ principles as commonly conceived. To explain this, Stephen Humphreys examines the history of the rule of law as a term of art and a spectrum of today’s interventions, as well as earlier examples of legal export to other ends. Rule of law promotion, he suggests, is best understood as a kind of theatre, the staging of a morality tale about the good life, intended for edification and emulation but blind to its own internal contradictions.

read the prologue

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Human Rights and Climate Change, edited by Stephen Humphreys Cambridge University Press, 2009  (Foreword by Mary Robinson)

As the effects of climate change continue to be felt, appreciation of its future transformational impact on numerous areas of public law and policy is set to grow. Among these, human rights concerns are particularly acute. They include forced mass migration, increased disease incidence and strain on healthcare systems, threatened food and water security, the disappearance and degradation of shelter, land, livelihoods and cultures, and the threat of conflict. This inquiry into the human rights dimensions of climate change looks beyond potential impacts to examine the questions raised by climate change policies: accountability for extraterritorial harms; constructing reliable enforcement mechanisms; assessing redistributional outcomes; and allocating burdens, benefits, rights and duties among perpetrators and victims, both public and private. The book examines a range of so-far unexplored theoretical and practical concerns that international law and other scholars and policy-framers will find increasingly difficult to ignore.

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Reports / Discussion Papers