April 5, 2013

Just leaving the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law.  The theme was “International Law in a Multipolar World.”  Crazy, busy, wonderful time.  Haven’t blogged in months, due not to a lack of news or things to say, but other, seemingly more important activities (teaching, writing, faculty meetings, grading papers, raising children, doing yoga).  But having been inspired by my colleague, Diane Marie Amann, to pick up my “pen” once again, I thought I would try to put a few thoughts about the meeting into writing.

First, congratulations to Diane, Woodruff Professor of International Law at the University of Georgia, for receiving the Prominent Woman in International Law from WILIG, the Women in International Law Interest Group.  An award well-deserved and very inspiring.

Diane, founder of Intlawgrrls, and Special Advisor on Children in Armed Conflict to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, gave a wonderful talk on Thursday highlighting women’s voices throughout the twentieth century in the struggle for international peace.  Beautifully accompanied by a power point that visually depicted many “foremothers” of today’s international lawyers, her lecture was followed by questions both exploring and challenging the suggestion that women – or at least many women — may approach violence differently because of their sex.  Diane reminded us that, at its founding, the Society did not admit women to membership and that it has not been until relatively recently that women have truly begun to find their voices and participate in Society programs and leadership roles.  Diane’s courage and willingness to work hard to stake out a space in the blogosphere for women to express their views, unfiltered by others has inspired so many of us to take our own opinions more seriously.  Thanks to Jaya for taking over the “management” of intlawgrrls!

There were of course many other highlights of the meetings – important speeches from government policy makers and lawyers; programs on private and public international law; a special lunch session dedicated to former ICJ judge Bruno Simma and another to former Nuremberg Prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz; and of course, the annual dinner and dance party with the International Law Students Association.  The Society – and the Annual Meeting – are much bigger than they used to be; no longer can we fit in the truly lovely Fairmount Hotel (miss that courtyard for sure!) and the annual skit, presided over by now-President (and her mom), Lori Fisler Damrosch, is missing too.  But what is wonderful is the extraordinary diversity, not just of panels, but people, that one finds:  People of color; many, many more women; younger scholars and practitioners; and more non-US nationals, whether international scholars, activists, diplomats or students.

The other thing that is clearly changing, as evidenced by the theme of this year’s meeting, is the sense that we are no longer living in an era of “go-it-alone” American hegemony.  The focus on international collaboration and cooperation at this meeting was palpable – as the program committee chairs put it “While the United States is arguably still the only superpower and the European Union remains the largest economy, the world is undergoing major change.  China, India, Russia, Brazil, and other States in Asia Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa are increasingly active voices in international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, and have started questioning the dominance of the West in these organizations.  These countries are forming alliances in the major international organizations and establishing new institutions to assert their authority and pursue their interests.  In short, a new set of actors is moving onto center stage.  In the process, these actors are seeking to reshape international rules governing trade and finance, military force, the environment, and beyond.”

Bravo, ASIL, for a wonderful conference!  Looking forward to next year.