Reconceiving International Law: Creativity in Times of Crisis
From March 24 – 26, 2021, the American Society of International Law will convene its 115th Annual Meeting. The Annual Meeting Committee (chaired by Simon Batifort, Christie Edwards, and Darin Johnson) welcomes ideas for sessions reflecting the meeting's theme, "Reconceiving International Law: Creativity in Times of Crisis."
In these extraordinary times, dramatic shifts in global health, the global economy, and geopolitical power structures are forcing human beings to adapt and evolve. These shifts require us to revisit the operation of the legal, political, and conceptual structures of our international order, and to examine the possibility — and perhaps necessity — of creating new norms, tools, and paradigms.
Today's health, economic, and racial justice crises are having a profound impact on the rule of law, human security, and the environment; human rights and gender equality; international business and trade; and virtually all other aspects of society. These effects are being exacerbated by the differing approaches that governments, international organizations, and private actors have taken toward international problem-solving. Although some may hope for a return to "normalcy" in all these areas, the current moment offers both the challenge and the opportunity to reconsider and potentially to reshape international law and international institutions.
The 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law will provide a forum to think critically and creatively about all fields of international law. Sessions will present a broad range of perspectives on innovative ways to address emerging issues, to improve global governance, and to tackle international problems. More than ever, it is a time to come together as international law scholars and practitioners, and to challenge ourselves to imagine a new way forward.
International Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, and Criminal Justice
Transnational Litigation, Arbitration, and Dispute Resolution
International Trade, Investment, and Finance
International Organizations, Global Governance, and Global Health
Security, Foreign Relations, and Use of Force
Environment, Sea, Space, and Sustainable Development
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2021 Annual Meeting Sessions by Track
There and Back Again: How to ensure compliance with IHL by relying on non-traditional voices and live to tell the tale
The application of international law in conflict settings faces several challenges, which can be linked to systemic and institutional reasons, such as the adherence of the applicable legal framework(s) by non-State armed groups (NSAGs) and the lack of appropriate organizational structures and resources allowing the parties, be they States or NSAGs, to fully implement their obligations. Improving compliance with humanitarian norms is therefore at the top of the international community’s agenda. In this context, although there are ‘traditional’ sets of binding rules applicable to the parties, there are also ‘non-traditional’ actors and sources that influence their behaviors in the battlefield, such as religious leaders, non-governmental organizations, women leaders, and local and community stakeholders among others. These perspectives can lead to creative approaches to compliance with IHL and greater protections for civilian populations. Additionally, the ICRC, in its most recent updated commentary on the Third Geneva Convention, has included gender perspectives on IHL and international human rights law standards that can apply during armed conflicts. This panel will address some of these voices and perspectives to highlight good practices for compliance generation
Mass Atrocities and Statelessness: (Re)considering the case of the Rohingya
In the vast majority of cases of mass atrocities, most of them involve statelessness. Statelessness is a commonality among groups who have been brutalized by states throughout the world and can be a justification used to defend horrendous human rights abuses. It is impossible to talk about mass atrocities and statelessness without looking to the Rohingya of Myanmar. The Rohingya have suffered systemic discrimination, persecution, crimes against humanity and genocide and, today, comprise the largest stateless population in the world. Using the Rohingya crisis as a case study, this panel will examine the role of statelessness as a driver of marginalization and the commission of mass atrocities. Panelists will examine the interlinkages between the distinct international legal frameworks governing mass atrocities and those that govern statelessness. They will also explore parallels with the unfolding crisis of mass deprivation of nationality in Assam, India as well as good practices in Kyrgyzstan, and will discuss the role of citizenship in providing protections for vulnerable groups from mass atrocities. Panelists will also examine how local strategies in different contexts for tackling statelessness might inform efforts to address aspects of the Rohingya crisis.
Transitional Justice for the United States: Can transitional justice tools help the U.S. address its legacy of racial injustice?
The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police have reinvigorated a nationwide movement to comprehensively acknowledge and address the need for racial justice in the United States. To address the systematic racism and abuse that has taken many forms over the past 400 years and continues to affect black Americans, many are demanding that justice must take the form of institutional reforms, policy changes, truth commissions, reparations, and rectifying memorialization across the country - tools of transitional justice which have been used in many international contexts. While many domestic actors have no experience with these tools, a few have invoked the German and South African experiences as potential examples. However, there are an array of international transitional justice experiences, which may have relevant lessons for U.S. actors seeking to address 400 years of systematic racial injustice. This discussion will aim to bring together leaders from the U.S. racial justice community with international transitional justice experts to begin to explore (1) whether transitional justice is appropriate in the U.S. context and if so, what are its limitations; (2) what international transitional justice experiences might have relevant lessons for U.S. racial justice initiatives; and (3) challenges that may unique to the U.S. context.
Human Rights and COVID-19: Challenges and good practices to effective recovery
As COVID-19 became a global health crisis, it threatened human security, affected the global economy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms integral in societies governed by the rule of law. The scale and severity of the pandemic is testing the world’s humanity and resilience, at a time of acute inequality, which disproportionately affects vulnerable and marginalized groups. Women and men, children, youth and older persons, refugees and migrants, economically vulnerable individuals, people with disabilities, persons in detention, LGBTQ individuals, and others are being impacted differently. Public health measures enacted to contain the virus have also encroached on freedom of movement, which inadvertently affect people’s livelihoods, work, education, and non-COVID-19 related access to health care. Many States have declared states of emergency and expanded their powers to censor information, surveil populations, detain critics, discriminate against vulnerable groups, arbitrarily detain, and misuse crowd control weapons. Governments must strike a fair balance between protecting and promoting public health, along with the duty to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights. This panel will discuss challenges in responding to COVID-19 and identify good practices to effective response and recovery to the pandemic to ensure respect for fundamental civil, political, economic, and social rights.
Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste
Radical events in the 20th century have ushered in waves of judicialization in many areas of international law, from the creation of the PCIJ following the catastrophic use of force in World War I to the establishment of international criminal tribunals to redress heinous international crimes. In these instances, participating States embraced an approach to dispute resolution premised upon notions of judicial integrity and independence. In a similar vein, to address the perceived legitimacy crisis of the investor-State dispute settlement system, UNCITRAL is currently discussing the creation of standing adjudicatory bodies, including a potential multilateral investment court and an appellate mechanism, to complement or replace ad hoc arbitration. However, the recent crisis in confidence at the WTO suggests that increased judicialization may result in its own problems. Focusing on the recent developments in international trade and investment law, this rapid response panel will discuss whether standing courts are the most effective mechanisms for the resolution of international disputes with inherently political dimensions. Is judicialization the only approach to address systemic crises, or is it time to reconceive of international dispute resolution based on international commissions, referral mechanisms from domestic courts to international tribunals, or other models?
The Evolving Role of Arbitral Institutions
While arbitral institutions have traditionally occupied an administrative role in support of arbitral proceedings, their impact on arbitral proceedings, and on the arbitration community more generally, has substantially evolved. Faced with a legal void or inconsistent rules, arbitration users have called on arbitral institutions for guidance and standards relating to key issues affecting arbitrations, such as codes of conduct, corruption, cybersecurity, transparency and diversity, and more recently, guidance on how to conduct virtual hearings in COVID-19 times. Having grown considerably in both size and number in the past years, arbitral institutions across the world have embraced this evolving role, especially in times of crisis, acting as key norm-makers and trend-setters in arbitration. With this evolving role—one traditionally reserved to states—the legitimacy and accountability of arbitral institutions has been questioned, especially considering the varying regimes of liability applicable to arbitral institutions across jurisdictions. This session will consider the pregnant role of arbitral institutions, the challenges it raises, and suggested solutions to address these challenges.
Debate: “Parallel Proceedings in Investment Arbitration Are Abusive and Should be Banned”
The increase in investor-State arbitrations has been accompanied by an increase in parallel proceedings. This includes proceedings arising from the same underlying facts under (i) treaties and national law, (ii) treaties and contracts, and (iii) even multiple treaties. States have objected that multiple related proceedings are abusive, impose undue burdens and risks, and should result in the dismissal of claims. Investors have argued that multiple related proceedings are a natural result of accessing the procedural rights and remedies afforded by States in applicable treaties, contracts, and local laws. Tribunals have reached seemingly inconsistent results: for example, the ICSID tribunal in Ampal v. Egypt found that multiple treaty claims regarding the same economic harm to constituted curable abuse of process, while the tribunal in Orascom v. Algeria declared that a similar situation rendered the claims before it inadmissible. Other tribunals have found no abuse at all, particularly when the related proceedings stem from different legal orders. This Oxford-style debate between two of the leading voices on the subject will address this tension through arguments both for and against the abusiveness of parallel proceedings in investor-State arbitration, and discussion of recent reform proposals aimed at addressing this phenomenon.
A “Supreme Court” Oral Argument: Should Courts Grant Discovery in Aid of Arbitration?
A compelling conflict is brewing in the United States regarding whether interested parties can obtain evidence in the United States in aid of private international arbitration. The statute permitting courts to provide aid in the form of compelling discovery for use in a “foreign or international tribunal”—known as Section 1782—had been interpreted as limiting this aid for use by foreign courts and state-sponsored or institutionalized arbitration. Over time, district courts and appellate courts in the United States have taken divergent views on this question. In a mock argument before the United States Supreme Court, advocates will present those conflicting views from the circuit court split in the United States and will also incorporate insights into how courts from other countries allow or restrict discovery for use in arbitration. After an opening argument, the Justices will ask the advocates thought-provoking questions concerning the factors courts consider when deciding whether to permit discovery, the advantages and disadvantages of permitting discovery in aid of private international arbitration, and the ramifications of expansive discovery on arbitration proceedings.
“The Tribunal Knows the Law” (Iura Novit Curia), but what should it do with it?
The arbitral tribunal’s power to depart from the parties’ submissions under the iura novit curia principle remains controversial. The maxim boils down to the notion that the parties cannot limit the tribunal’s legal cognition, since the purpose of an adjudicator’s mandate is to promote the adequate administration of justice and application of the law. In other words, the principle of iura novit curia confers upon the tribunal the freedom to depart from the legal grounds raised by the parties – particularly where only such departure would allow for an arguably fairer solution to the dispute. However, the precise outlines of such freedom are still very contentious, especially in an international arbitration. When discussing iura novit curia, one is faced with a myriad of questions: can tribunals apply legal grounds ex officio without exceeding their mandate? If so, is there a duty or a right to this effect? Would such an application violate the due process rights of the parties? What law regulates iura novit curia: the lex arbitrii, the lex causae, or yet another law? This session will explore these and other issues to map out the current state of play with respect to the principle from a transnational perspective.
Litigating Health and Security Exceptions in Investment Treaties: A simulation
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a looming challenge for the system of investor-state arbitration. Although few cases filed to date have directly addressed COVID-19-related measures, observers have argued that a wide range of national responses to the pandemic—including lockdown orders, nationalizations, export restrictions, and capital controls— could give rise to claims under investment treaties. Treaty-based exceptions for security, emergency, and public health measures are one widely recognized means of securing additional flexibility for host states in their treatment of foreign investments. There is, however, no consensus on the proper interpretation and application of treaty-based exceptions, including on critical questions such as the scope and standard of review or whether exceptions are suitable for determination as a preliminary matter. This makes their application to COVID-19-related measures uncertain, at best. This session will consider the application of security and public-health exceptions through a simulated investor-state arbitral hearing. The panelists, acting as counsel and tribunal members, will work from a simplified fact pattern involving a state regulation restricting business activity in response to the pandemic. The moderator will offer critical remarks that situate the issues raised among broader questions about the flexibility, stability, and legitimacy of the investment treaty regime.
Reassessing Sovereign Bankruptcy in a Time of Global Economic Crisis
The economic crisis precipitated by COVID-19 is expected to cause a new wave of sovereign defaults. In the last year, over 100 countries have requested emergency assistance from the International Monetary Fund. States that were previously teetering on the brink of crisis – including Argentina, Ecuador and Lebanon – have defaulted or begun the process of restructuring their debts. Several others are expected to follow close behind. Like previous defaults, this next wave of sovereign debt crises will occur in the absence of a comprehensive sovereign bankruptcy mechanism. However, it will be subject to new legal and political developments including: more wide-spread use of private ordering solutions such as Collective Action Clauses; the use of investor-state dispute settlement; and efforts by the World Bank and IMF to impose a moratorium on emerging market debt. This next wave of defaults thus provides an opportunity to evaluate the impact of recent developments and test the limits of managing sovereign debt restructurings in the absence of a comprehensive sovereign bankruptcy mechanism. It thus provides an opportunity to reassess private, public, and international solutions to the sovereign debt problem and imagine the way forward.
Realigning Investment Treaties with States’ Interests
In July 2017, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) tasked its Working Group III with a “broad mandate” to explore potential reforms to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), in response to the growing concerns about the legitimacy and efficacy of ISDS, particularly with respect to its aims of attracting and protecting foreign investment for economic development. Working Group III has interpreted this mandate narrowly as being limited to a consideration of procedural reforms of ISDS, despite many States’ and other stakeholders’ noting that the critiques of ISDS relate as much to investment treaties’ substantive provisions and protections, the effects of which are intertwined with the procedural aspects of ISDS. This session will step back from the ongoing discussions of procedural reforms in UNCITRAL’s Working Group III to reflect holistically on the objectives of investment treaties and the States that sign them. It will consider the extent to which both the substantive and procedural aspects of investment treaties are aligned with States’ objectives and the universally agreed sustainable development goals, and the tools available to States to shape existing and new treaties to better align with and support States’ development objectives.
International Trade Dispute Settlement 2.0
With the change in WTO leadership and the creation of the Multi-Party Interim Appeal (MPIA) arrangement in 2020, set against the backdrop of escalating trade tensions and the pandemic, the trade dispute landscape is on the verge of seismic change. What types of trade disputes are likely to mushroom post-pandemic? Is the MPIA here to stay, and can, or will, it be replaced by other mechanisms such as those in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) as the preferred choice of resolving trade disputes with finality? Why have FTA dispute settlement mechanisms remained underutilized? This session will look back on the key developments in 2020 before looking ahead and considering creative means through which trade disputes might be dealt with in the future. The panel will review WTO disputes that were appealed “into the void,” and consider if there may have been alternative means of resolution. For those that cannot be resolved as such, will this herald the return to a power-based trading system, and what will be the impact of the simmering US-China tensions? Will trade law jurisprudence witness fragmentation in tandem with the increasingly multi-polar political landscape, and might this in fact be desirable?
The Rise of Restrictions on Data Flows and Digital Technologies: National security, human rights, or geo-economics?
There has been a recent increase in governmental actions impacting trade and investment flows in data and digital technologies. The US has taken actions affecting Huawei, TikTok and WeChat because of concerns about Chinese access to data and technologies. China has responded by tightening its control over technology exports, such as TikTok’s algorithm, as well as its long-standing restrictions on data transfers and territorial data localization requirements. The Schrems II judgment of the EU Court of Justice invalidated the personal data transfer arrangement between the EU and the US and might force companies such as Facebook to store and process data within Europe. Are these actions based on data privacy/human rights concerns? Are they driven by national security interests? Or do they reflect geo-economic struggles between Europe, the US, and China? Where does this leave other countries? This session will seek to address whether the international community needs to rethink its conceptual toolkit to account for the world’s interconnected nature in terms of data flows, digital technologies, and investment, and whether new norms of international law need to be developed, and in which venues.
Backlash to the International Legal Order: Breakdown or breakthrough?
The post-WWII international legal order has demonstrated resiliency in the face of many challenges over the past several decades. But now it arguably confronts its most dramatic and diverse set of challenges yet. The rise of a multipolar world order and the United States’ abdication, for the past four years, of its traditional role of defending international institutions and norms places significant strain on the international legal order. At the same time, a populist backlash has emerged that opposes not only global governance conceptions of international law, but also key pillars of the UN Charter’s “liberal” regime of sovereign equality and collective security. These currents can be traced to contradictions internal to the normative structure of international law itself and, in particular, the dramatic shift in understandings of sovereignty under conditions of technological globalization. Are we backsliding from an international order based on the rule of law to a more lawless world? Is there a deeper existential crisis of values driving much of the resentment against the liberal international order? Has the rules-based international order itself been the incubator for authoritarian populism and illiberal democracy over the last thirty years? And is this “backlash” a true threat to the international legal order necessitating its re-imagination and re-conception, or do we underestimate the resiliency of the international legal order? This panel will examine these questions and more.
Multilateral Diplomacy When the World Is Locked Down
Multilateral meetings attended by delegations from numerous countries are a central feature of many international organizations. This session offers a practical review and assessment of how international organizations, their Member States and host countries responded to the immigration restrictions, travel challenges and quarantine restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists will discuss a range of issues including: changes to established consultation and decision-making processes when it became impossible for Member State representatives to travel from abroad to attend meetings; how international organizations’ requests for exemptions from immigration and movement restrictions were balanced with the public health concerns of the host country; and how approaches to advocacy and consensus-building were modified to remain effective without in-person engagement. The session will address the impact of adjustments for the lack of physical presence; the impact of distance on the pace, form and frequency of discussion among Member States; and the impact of adjustments to multilateral organizations’ decision-making processes. The panelists will explore the legal considerations informing these adjustments and the pandemic’s long-term impact upon the nature and form of multilateral diplomacy.
COVID-19’s Lessons for Inter-governmental Pandemic Response Coordination
This session will assess the intergovernmental response of states and global governance institutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists will explore this question with the intention of developing concrete measures to improve international response coordination in the face of future pandemics. In particular, the session will explore to what extent response failures to COVID-19 were the result of poor or misinformed decision-making on the part of global institutions and national governments, and attempt to extract discrete lessons that might allow us to enhance such decision-making capacity in the near term (and ideally before the emergence of the next pandemic). The session will also address to what extent response failures stem from more fundamental maladies within existing mechanisms of global governance, how global institutions could be restructured or reconceived to address such maladies, and likely obstacles to any efforts at reform (including issues of legitimacy, increased nationalism, and great power competition).
Indigenous Participation in International Organizations
The 2021 Annual Meeting theme recognizes that in these extraordinary times it may be necessary to reconsider and reshape international law and international institutions. Indigenous peoples have been calling for such a reformation for generations. Denied the right to exercise international legal personality, Indigenous communities have long been shut out of the international system. Their exclusion in international forums has contributed to the challenges that many Indigenous peoples face in seeking to protect and promote their interests in the domestic sphere. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately affect Indigenous peoples and communities, it is high time to consider how we may reconceive international law and international institutions to allow Indigenous peoples to speak for themselves on issues of concern. As the world devises policy measures to beat the current health crisis, these internationally consolidated efforts must include all people, especially indigenous groups whose voices have been drained by the surge of the pandemic. Amidst the agonizing disregard of their health concerns in the wake of COVID-19, the plight of indigenous people is deepened by the ongoing climate crises, economic deprivation and racial discrimination. Now more than ever the survival of indigenous people is threatened. After years of conceiving the idea of functional and effective representation of indigenous people in the United Nations system and within other intergovernmental organizations, the call for participation in global governance by and for indigenous peoples should materialize. The panel is set to focus on practical issues that concern the modalities of participation of indigenous groups. It will consider reformation of the legal order of international organizations to allow for enhanced participation and self-determination rights of indigenous peoples. Paramount in this discussion is the mandate of international organizations in accentuating indigenous rights in the present global healthcare crisis and in a post COVID-19 era.
Protest and Police Force: Examining Racial Discrimination and the Legality of Police Force in the United States
The tragic killing of George Floyd and the ongoing and disproportionate killings of black and brown people by law enforcement in the United States sparked demonstrations in all fifty states and around the world. In response, the police utilized "less lethal weapons," such as tear gas and rubber bullets, against protesters in ways that implicate international legal norms. These actions illustrate a broader trend of militarization of police and excessive use of force by police against civilians in the United States. Indeed, a recent report by the University of Chicago's Global Human Rights Clinic found that the police policies in twenty of the largest cities in the United States failed to meet international human rights standards on the use of force. This session will explore the legality and limits of the use of force by police under international law, particularly in the context of Black Lives Matter protests in the United States.
Accomplice Accountability for Grave Violations of International Law
A close look at the most egregious examples of international law violations that have threatened peace and security in recent times reveals a common trend: governments perpetrating these serious crimes do not act alone. They often do so with the help of others, both State and non-State actors. Notable examples include the logistical support, weapons, and intelligence provided by the United States, United Kingdom, and France to a Saudi-led coalition whose airstrikes have killed numerous civilians in Yemen; almost a decade of Russian and Iranian air and ground support for the Assad regime's systematic torture and killing of civilians in Syria; and the failure of Facebook to remove posts that incited genocide of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar. This panel will explore the range of “help” from direct participation to complicity and what accountability is warranted under international law. It will seek to answer: what legal responsibility should potential "accomplices" bear for their role in the grave violations of international law?
Information Conflict in the Digital Age
As evidenced by Russia’s recent efforts at election interference in the United States and Europe, and the growing spread of COVID-19 related disinformation, the role of information conflict in global strategic competition has evolved and taken on new weight. Developments in the technological structure and global interconnectedness of information and telecommunications (IT) infrastructure have enabled states to engage in malicious influence campaigns at an unprecedented scope, scale, depth, and speed, generating what one expert describes as “one of the greatest vulnerabilities we as individuals and as a society must learn to deal with.” And while international law has historically been very tolerant of state’s use of propaganda and suasion, the new reality of information conflict threatens to undermine the essence of sovereign equality, independence, and the rules-based international order. Since the inception and unprecedented expansion of IT technology, states have struggled to adapt existing international law to the cyber context, and are only beginning to grapple with the unique challenges presented by IT technology-enabled influence campaigns. This roundtable will explore whether and how international law can play a role in regulating the evolving face of information conflict in the digital age.
International Aid in a Time of Global Crisis
In recent years, some world leaders have employed a nationalist agenda that has minimized traditional foreign-policy commitments, such as international aid. The rise in this populist shift away from the traditional foreign assistance model came during a time of protracted and complex crises and the increase and intensification of natural disasters, exacerbated by the global climate crisis. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated economies and significantly altered the political landscapes in many countries, consequences whose effects will be felt for many years. This panel will reflect on how the international aid community should revisit its legal, political, and conceptual structures to address these many pressing challenges.
Advancing Human Rights Through U.S. Foreign Policy: Challenges and opportunities
Around the world, nations continue to engage in practices involving systemic human rights violations, oppression, and crackdowns on democratic processes and civil rights and civil liberties. Over the past five years, both China and India have intensified repression of minority communities and engaged in crackdowns on democracy. China has continued to engage in systematic oppression of the Uighur population in the Xinjiang province including mass internment and detention, repression of religious freedoms and practices, mass surveillance, torture, and other forms of repression, and has intensified its crackdown on democracy and rights in Hong Kong. India has engaged in repressive policies toward the Muslim population through the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the implementation of a National Registry of Citizens (NRC), and has curbed democracy and civil liberties through the enactment of Article 370 stripping the state of Kashmir of autonomy, imposing martial law, and restricting and curbing political activity and civil rights and civil liberties. This panel will critically examine and evaluate the current state of U.S. engagement with China and India, including actions by the President and State Department, recent efforts in Congress to enact legislation, and recent work and campaigns by NGOs and human rights groups aimed at addressing repression and human rights violations in both nations. Existing U.S. engagement has largely been ineffective in building pressure on either country to change its policies. This panel will explore and consider how the U.S. can adopt new approaches to advancing human rights through its foreign policy with China, India and around the world.
The Lorax Revisited: Protecting forests from illegal logging and deforestation
Human-driven deforestation, such as illegal logging, large-scale agricultural investments, cattle grazing, and mining have caused concern around the globe, particularly during the 2019 Amazon fires, and have become key issues in the fight against climate change. Large-scale deforestation occurs everywhere and is thus a global problem: in the Amazonian basin, in Western and Central Africa, and South-East Asia. The few original forests in Europe are also under threat. Illegal logging is a major threat to global forest resources and a multibillion-dollar operation worldwide, reaching as much as $ 10 billion a year. It is also a major risk to the lives and livelihoods of indigenous communities, as “rainforest mafias” have threatened, attacked, and even killed indigenous “forest guardians” who patrol their native homelands and report illegal logging practices. It is also a threat to the biodiversity and wildlife of the forests as they face habitat degradation and loss. Panelists will address the legal and practical implications of illegal logging and deforestation on the indigenous and wildlife residents in diminishing forests around the globe. They will also address solutions and accountability measures to prevent further destruction of these habitats and encourage reforestation and sustainable development.
Creating the Crime of Ecocide: An effective tool to address climate and environmental crises?
A growing number of activists and environmental defenders believe criminalizing acts amounting to “ecocide” would better equip international law to address climate and biodiversity crises. The term “ecocide” ordinarily refers to the destruction of the environment to the detriment of life. This session will examine the potential of its incrimination through a dynamic discussion on four issues. First, understanding the practical gaps or shortages in international criminal law, international environmental law and other relevant fields of international law that the incrimination of ecocide could overcome. Second, determining the point at which a specific conduct has environmental consequences so grave that it could be considered as ecocide and why it is important to differentiate between ecocide and any other environmental crimes. Third, turning ecocide into an international crime would require agreeing on the definition of its material and intentional elements, such as which acts and/or omissions would fall within the scope of ecocide and whether a special or regular intent would be required. Whether or not corporate actors could be held responsible is also key. Finally, it is important to identify and agree on the most appropriate forum to effectively investigate, prosecute and adjudicate this new international crime.
Protecting People in the context of Climate Change and Disasters
Climate change constitutes one of the preeminent threats of our time, menacing fragile ecosystems, exacerbating natural disasters, and disrupting societies, such as through the creation of climate refugees fleeing rising sea levels which threaten island nations. The legal protection of persons affected by climate change and disasters features on the agenda of several international bodies, including the United Nations General Assembly (including the SDGs and the Global Compact for Migration), the Human Rights Council specialized agencies, the International Organization for Migration, UNHCR, and the International Law Commission (including the recent work on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters and the on-going work on sea-level rise in relation to international law), as well as civil society organizations. Recently, international, regional and domestic litigation has increased in frequency and significance, including before the United Nations Human Right Committee and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. In this session, the speakers will address the treatment of this topic before these various entities. The discussion will focus also on developments arising from cases brought before UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies, Regional Human Rights Systems, and national jurisdictions.
Judging the Climate Crisis: The role of the International Court of Justice addressing environmental harms
In the past year, a global youth movement has started to campaign for a resolution from the UN General Assembly requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to clarify the status and extent of emerging environmental law principles, including the right to a safe and healthy environment, sustainable development, transboundary harm, and polluter pays principle as it relates to specific rights and obligations of States. Several small island developing States, along with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, have expressed support for this initiative. This session will take the form of a debate between the four panelists, who will present opposing views on the most likely contested legal issues and whether such a request would be useful to advance global efforts to fight climate change. An interactive dialogue between panelists and participants will then tease out the promises and pitfalls of the different approaches presented by the panelists.
Space Race for the Battlestar: International law implications of the militarization of space
Over the last decade, as states have moved aggressively to establish their advantage in new domains, the rules-based international order is under unprecedented stress. The so-called return to great power competition is literally reaching for the stars, with states adopting new military strategies, command structures, and technologies aimed at securing dominance and competitive advantage in outer space. The United States recently created a unified combatant command (the US Space Command), as well as a new branch of the Armed Forces—the US Space Force. Other space powers, such as Russian and China, have expressed concern, and underlined the implications this may have for developing defensive capacities. These developments present acute challenges to the existing framework of international space law generally, and international humanitarian law more specifically. This panel will address the increasing militarization of space and the international legal challenges it presents.
2021 Annual Meeting Co-Chairs
Simon Batifort, Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP Christie Edwards, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Darin Johnson, Howard University School of Law
2021 Annual Meeting Committee Members
Andre Abbud, Barbosa, Müssnich & Aragão Advogados Rob Anderson, U.S. Department of the Treasury Raymond Atuguba, University of Ghana Ari Bassin, Office of Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State Saadia Bhatty, Gide Loyrette Nouel Colin Brown, Directorate General for Trade, European Commission Gary Corn, Technology, Law, & Security Program, AUWCL Melissa del Aguila, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, AUWCL Andrés Felipe Esteban Tovar, National Agency for the Legal Defense of the Republic of Colombia Ezequiel Heffes, Geneva Call Jaroslav Kudrna, Ministry of Finance, Czech Republic Andrew Larkin, Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP Rachel Lopez, Drexel University School of Law Ben Love, Reed Smith LLP Kate Mackintosh, Promise Institute for Human Rights, UCLA School of Law Manoj Mate, University of California, Irvine School of Law Alina Miron, University of Angers Sahr Muhammedally, Center for Civilians in Conflict Katerina Ossenova, Office of Foreign Litigation, U.S. Department of Justice Duncan Pickard, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP Michele Potestà, Lévy Kaufmann-Kohler Lisa Sachs, Columbia Center for Sustainable Investment Victoria Sahani, Arizona State University College of Law Camilo Sanchez, University of Virginia School of Law Lela Scott, Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State Arsalan Suleman, Foley Hoag LLP Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh, Leiden University Law School Alyssa Yamamoto, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP Hongchuan Zhang, Attorney General's Chambers, Singapore Adnan Zulfiqar, Rutgers Law School
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