Matt Hoisington, 2012


Langues spoken: English, Italian, German
Thesis Advisor: Professor Ian Johnstone

Ungoverned spaces, strictly defined as "spaces not effectively governed by the state" exist all over the world, presenting particular difficulties to public international law, which is historically premised on sovereignty and state control. Examples of such spaces include cyberspace, south-central Somalia and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border. These spaces destabilize the international system in novel ways, and they might also be dangerous. Many of the terrorism plots from the late twentieth and early twenty-first century emanated from “safe havens” afforded by ungoverned spaces. The lack of governance over certain spaces also raises concerns over development, including the health, education, human rights and economic welfare of affected populations. To address the challenges posed by ungoverned spaces, both to the discipline of international law and to the stability of the international system, this article first derives a nuanced understanding of the issue from both the security and legal literatures. It then formulates an interpretive international legal framework and tests it against real-world examples. Through this process it develops a complex argument on how international law should apply to ungoverned space.


Matt Hoisington grew up in Kingfield, Maine, a small town in the northeast U.S. He is interested in all aspects of public international law, but while at Fletcher he has focused on peacekeeping, governance and the use of force. During law school at Boston College, he clerked for Judge Theodor Meron in the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia/International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and he also interned at the United Nations (U.N.) Office of Legal Affairs in the Office of the Legal Counsel. After law school, he returned to the Office of the Legal Counsel and worked on issues of privileges and immunities, peacekeeping and U.N. administrative law. These experiences made him realize that he wanted to pursue a career in public international law at the nexus of law and policy. Matt is also interested in a relatively new area of the law: cyber law. In particular, he is attracted to questions concerning the jurisdiction and governance of cyberspace, as well as debates over the legality and legitimacy of cyber operations conducted by both state and non-state actors. After graduation, Matt joined the U.N. Office of Legal Affairs in New York as an Associate Legal Officer in the Codification Division. He looks forward to the opportunity to contribute to the office's mission of "codifying and progressively developing international law."