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Press Release

Press Release

Doctoral Thesis on The Statehood of Landless States

Michel Rouleau-Dick.
Michel Rouleau-Dick

M.Soc.Sc. Michel Rouleau-Dick’s doctoral thesis in Law will be put forth for public defence at Faculty of Social Sciences, Business and Economics, and Law at Åbo Akademi University.

The thesis is entitled Statehood, statelessness, and continuity in a climate-changed world A worst-case scenario analysis.

The public defence of the doctoral thesis takes place on 8 December 2023 at 11 AM, in auditorium Helikon, Arken, Tehtaankatu 2, Turku. You can also attend the public defence of this doctoral thesis online. Professor Jane McAdam, University of New South Wales, Sidney, Australia will serve as opponent and Professor Magdalena Kmak, Åbo Akademi University, as custos.


Human-induced greenhouse gas emissions precipitate a critical destabilization of the Earth’s climate system. This phenomenon is affecting the world’s oceans, resulting in sea level rise. For Low-lying Island States (LLISs), which are situated at minimal elevations above these rising seas, this escalation presents an existential threat. Remarkably, these LLISs are among the least contributors to climate change. The plight of LLISs precipitates a precedent-setting challenge for public international law: no sovereign entity has hitherto confronted the prospect of losing its physical territory permanently. The current lacuna in definitive state practice, coupled with the absence of authoritative jurisprudential guidance on the continued existence of a state without the physical elements of statehood, engenders a state of significant legal uncertainty. 

The thesis tackles this complex question and offers legal insights into potential remedies. It consists of three articles, each contributing a unique perspective to the debate. The first examines the “presumption of continuity,” which generally helps maintain a nation’s status despite drastic changes. It suggests that this concept might offer limited help to LLISs if they lose their land. The second article explores whether LLISs could adopt a status similar to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which holds a level of international sovereignty without a territory. The third looks at how the 1954 Convention on Stateless Persons could apply to the citizens of LLISs if they were displaced. 

The thesis uses scenarios to explore potential outcomes for the statehood of a landless LLIS and the status of its displaced people. This method helps in understanding the practical implications of these legal theories, underlining the urgency to prevent such scenarios through legal advancements or proactive environmental measures. 



Michel Rouleau-Dick was born in 1993 in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Québec, Canada. He can be reached by email michel.rouleau-dick@abo.fi. 

The doctoral thesis can be read online through the Doria publication archive.

Click here for a press photo of the doctoral student.   


Instructions on how to follow the doctoral defence remotely

To follow the defence, you need the Zoom software or the Google Chrome browser. You do not need to create a Zoom account to follow the defence. If you install the application, you participate by clicking on the meeting link, after which you should allow the link to open in the Zoom app.