Legal Reasoning About Displacement and Responsibility

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 30, 2023

Legal Reasoning About Displacement and Responsibility: A Dialogue Between the Buddhist Monastic Discipline and IHL

Christina A. Kilby
James Madison University

Civilian displacement is a common consequence of armed conflict with grave humanitarian implications. In this article, I analyze Buddhist codes of monastic discipline in order to illuminate how these legal traditions have reasoned about the significance of home and the harms of displacement. I then bring my findings into conversation with the legal reasoning that international humanitarian law (IHL) requires of parties to armed conflict whose decisions may result in displacement of civilians. I argue that both IHL and the Buddhist monastic codes take into account responsibility for the causes of harm, for direct harm, and for the reverberating fallout of harm. By exploring the ethical values and reasoning habits that these two traditions hold in common, Buddhist actors—in military and civil society—may strengthen their commitment to prevent displacement and to protect displaced people and their hosts during times of conflict.

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