Saturday, May 31, 2008

UN: A Post-Racial America? Not Yet.

So. The United States of America is not a “post-racial” (or “post-gender” for that matter) society after all. The racial and gender vitriol and resentment apparent in the current U.S. presidential campaign threatens to overwhelm the early celebratory mood of women (including women of color), people of color, and people hoping for an end to racism and sexism in public office. Let’s hope some optimism remains (about ending “racism” as opposed to “getting past race” as a useful social, political, or cultural construct).

We’ll need optimism, whether or not the post-identity dreams of some pan out. Whatever happens in the U.S. presidential election, either the “new” or “old” politics will have to deal with issues that threaten human survival on a global scale: violent conflicts (including in our own poorest neighborhoods) and the related trade in small arms, disease pandemics, global climate change and “natural” disasters, fair terms of trade and the rights of workers, massive refugee and migrant flows, and extreme poverty. Race and racism play a part in the way such problems play out—on who they impact first or most severely, and the urgency or lack of urgency with which they are resolved.

For those of us who grew up both Black and female in the 60s or 70s, the fact that our country’s final candidates for the nation’s highest office included a talented African-American male Senator and a talented white female Senator should still be inspirational and symbolize progress. It means that at least some entrenched ideas and behaviors are capable of change after years of struggle by many unsung s/heroes. (Photo: Ida B. Wells-Barnett, anti-lynching and African-American women's suffrage campaigner.)

Symbolism is important. It inspires the young and the not-so-young. It grabs media attention that can translate into popular political support on key issues. But our next president (who I hope will be Senator Barack Obama) must move beyond symbolism to address harsh racial and gender realities in this country.

The U.S. is still smarting over recent strong UN critiques of its racial record (see links in "Concluding Observations?": Just the Beginning," “Race-ing Human Rights in the U.S.,” and “UN on Katrina, Race, and Housing.") The administration has, to its credit (I don’t get to say that very often), opened itself to some additional scrutiny. It has invited an independent international expert to review its current practice on race.

Diene has been meeting with officials and grassroots groups in Chicago, New York, Omaha, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Washington, DC, Miami, and San Juan to gather information about racial realities in the U.S. Recent reports on racial injustice and poverty in the U.S. by Global Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the US Human Rights Network (a coalition of groups) detail the widespread human rights impact of employment, housing, and educational discrimination, racial disparities in health care, police brutality, racialized imprisonment rates, and abuses against immigrants.
Information on the Special Rapporteur’s meetings so far, remaining schedule of public meetings, and on how to submit written documentation can be found here and here.

Diene’s review occurs during the lead-up to the separate UN Durban + 5 Review—Durban Review Conference 2009, scheduled for 20 April-24 April, 2009, in Geneva (see’s list of related links here). That conference will attempt to take a global snapshot of responses to racism and progress on recommendations made at the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa in 2001.

The next U.S. president must come to terms with racism (and the sexism and other forms of discrimination that often intersect with it). And that president will have to do so on a much deeper level than mere exchanges of competing internet video soundbites and dueling media pundits can provide. Our discriminatory past and present, in all its complexity, is not only reprehensible and unjust: it violates our international human rights obligations.

(Photo: U.S. anti-apartheid activist Sylvia Hill (center) with Gay McDougall (now UN Independent Expert on Minorities (right) and former President of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. From No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half-Century: 1950-2000 (William Minter, Gail Hovey, and Charles Cobb, Jr. eds., 2007).

On May 31

On this day in ...

... 1678 (330 years ago today), the City of Coventry, in England, staged the 1st annual Lady Godiva procession in honor of a legendary noblewoman who'd lived 6 centuries earlier. It is said that she annoyed her husband, one Leofric, with her pleas to free the townspeople from oppressive service and taxation. Finally, "exasperate[d]," he said:
'Mount your horse and ride naked, before all the people, through the market of this town from one end to the other, and on your return you shall have your request.'
In response she "loosed her tresses," which covered all but her legs as she rode nude through Coventry, so that the husband was compelled to fulfill his promise. (image credit) Godiva's impersonator in Coventry's 1st commemorative parade was a male, identified only as "James Swinnerton's son."

... 2008 (today), the World Health Organization observes the annual World No Tobacco Day, 1st established in the late 1980s. This year's theme is "Tobacco-Free Youth," aims at discouraging children from trying tobacco products -- and at encouraging businesses not to market these products to children.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Biofuel versus food?

Yesterday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Coordination and Development (OECD) released their joint Agricultural Outlook 2008-2017. The Report makes for sobering reading. All of the commodities covered in the report (cereals, oilseeds, sugar, meats, milk and dairy products) are at record highs. When the average for 2008 to 2017 is compared with that over 1998 to 2007, the Report projects that
beef and pork prices may be some 20% higher; raw and white sugar around 30%; wheat, maize and skim milk powder 40 to 60%; butter and oilseeds more than 60% and vegetable oils over 80%.

The Report attributes these price increases to fundamental changes in demand (ethanol and increased demand for meat in developing countries) as well as changes in agricultural productivity due to climate change. It seems that higher food prices are here to stay.
The only glimmer of good news comes in the form of FAO/OECD projections that prices will retreat from their record highs. Of course, these projection rest on the assumption that weather patterns have been only temporarily disrupted and will return to "normal." Even if this optimistic projection about the effects of climate change is proved right, prices that are merely elevated will still put hundreds of millions at risk of hunger and malnutrition.

Food insecurity is growing
The FAO's slogan is "helping to build a world without hunger." It seems a fairly modest goal, particularly since Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen convincingly demonstrated decades ago that food insecurity is primarily a distribution problem. If that remains true, all it should take to make the FAO slogan a reality is political will. And, that of course is the catch. In our globalized economy, food is a commodity available to the highest bidder. If that high bidder wants to turn food into biofuel rather than feed it to those in need, so be it.
The real world consequences of this approach are ugly; and they are only going to get worse! In many low-income countries, food expenditures already average over 50% of income. Higher prices mean that more people will be undernourished. This hunger map compiled by FAOSTAT shows how high the percentages of food insecurity already are.
In the poorest countries, more than half the population is undernourished! The UN Millennium Development Goals set a target of halving the number of people suffering hunger by 2015. It is important to read the FAO/OECD Report with these Millenium Goals in mind.
There are relatively easy steps that could take us closer to the Millenium Goals. For example, the FAO/OECD Report calls biofuel demand

the largest source of new demand in decades and a strong factor underpinning the upward shift in agricultural commodity prices.

Characterizing the energy, environmental and economic benefits of biofuels made from agricultural commodities as "at best modest, and sometimes even negative,” the Report recommends considering alternative approaches that offer potentially greater benefits with less of the unintended market impact.
Food prices and the global economy will be one of the issues addressed at the June 4-5 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris. FAO is holding a separate High-Level food crisis summit in Rome on June 3-5. Let's hope that they focus more on feeding those in need, and less on boosting nascent biofuel industries.

On May 30

On this day in ...
... 1992, by Resolution 757 of the U.N. Security Council, an embargo "of any commodities or products" was imposed on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) as a sanction for its failure to end fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
... 1907, Germaine Tillion (left) was born in Allègre, France, to a mother who was a writer and a father who was a judge. An anthropology student at the University of Paris and other schools, she went to northeastern Algeria 4 times in the 1930s on missions to study Berbers and other groups. She would become, in the words of the French daily Libération, "a pioneer in anthropology and a visceral opponent of all totalitarianisms." On August 13, 1942, the Gestapo arrested her for having helped form the French Resistance to Nazi occupation. She endured 3 years at the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women in eastern Germany (a camp about which we posted here in last year's Women at Nuremberg series). At the same camp her mother, Emilie Tillion, perished in a gas chamber on March 2, 1945. In the post-World War II period she condemned torture of Algerians by the French and violence on both sides of the conflict. "As a Gaullist and a Catholic, she worked on several occasions as a 'middle man' between French authorities and Algerian activists." A leading intellectual, Tillion was the author of many works, among them France and Algeria: Complementary Enemies and Ravensbrück. Tillion was honorary director of the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris when she died on April 19 of this year, at her home in Saint-Mandé, France. Tillion was 100 years old.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

(Not) 'Nuff Said

A sample of interrogation-related documents that the U.S. government released this week, in redacted form, in response to ongoing Freedom of Information Act litigation. (hat tip)
The 1st line reads:
These enhanced techniques include:

The 2d line reads:
Water Board

You can fill in the rest.

Deadly Prisons

Barry Bearak, the co-bureau chief of the New York Times’s Johannesburg bureau, recently recounted his brief but harrowing imprisonment in Zimbabwe (read his account here). Bearak, who was arrested for ‘committing journalism’ on April 3, 2008, spent four nights in jail before being released and fleeing to Johannesburg.
Bearak’s bleak description of prison conditions in Zimbabwe undoubtedly resonates with those who advocate on behalf of prisoners throughout Africa. Human Rights Watch, among others, has attempted to expose the horrifying prison conditions in a number of African countries (Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia). The Legal Assistance Center (LAC), an active and well-respected human rights organization in Namibia (map at left), recently conducted a fact-finding investigation concerning the care and treatment of HIV-positive inmates in the national prison system. The fact-finding delegation, of which I was a part -- along with eight students from the University of Wyoming College of Law -- discovered that the prison conditions that Bearak describes were quite similar to the conditions in Namibia. Worse yet, HIV-positive inmates often lacked access to life-saving treatment and basic medical care. (Look for the complete report on LAC’s website in late summer). A number of factors contribute to the exceptionally high HIV transmission rates within Namibia’s prison system, including consensual, unprotected anal sex and rape. As in most prisons in the U.S., prison authorities refuse to distribute condoms despite their potential to prevent HIV transmission in many cases. Sadly, as Bearak experienced in Zimbabwe, prison conditions are often abysmal; for HIV-positive inmates the conditions may, indeed, be deadly.

On May 29

On this day in ...
... 2007, in Bermuda, Dame Lois Browne-Evans (right), "a pioneer in many fields," died from a stroke 3 days short of her 80th birthday. In 1953, Browne-Evans became the 1st woman called to the bar of the island state. She became the 1st black woman to be elected a Member of Bermuda's Parliament " in the history-making 1963 election, in which adults who did not own property received the right to vote for the first time." In 1968, she became the 1st woman to lead an opposition party anywhere in the British Commonwealth; 30 years after that, she was named Bermuda's 1st woman Attorney General. "Her career," the Bermuda Sun wrote at the time of her death, "was defined by one in which she championed the rights of black and working-class Bermudians, who stood on the margins of power, back in the 50s and 60s."
... 1677, Cockacoesk, the weroansqua, or female ruler, of the Pamunkey tribe, and her son called "Captain John West," the weroance, or male ruler, of the Nansemond, signed The Treaty of Middle Plantation, referring to what is now Williamsburg, Virginia, part of the Chesapeake Bay area shown at left. By this treaty certain Native Americans -- "the Powhatan captives" -- held captive by English settlers were to be returned to their tribes. "Because this treaty is still in force, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi still pay "tribute" of game to the governor of Virginia each autumn."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Transitional Justice in Cambodia

One final post on my recent trip to Cambodia (flag at left) to observe the proceedings before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. A challenge to the tribunal will be making its legal proceeding accessible to ordinary Cambodians, who may have only a rudimentary formal education.
Researchers and lawyers with the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) are travelling around the country (map, right) to interview survivors and former members of the Khmer Rouge and document their stories. These interviews will provide opportunities for Cambodians to participate in the upcoming trials before the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Part of this work has involved updating a set of complaints (the so-called Renakse Petitions) that were solicited in the early 1980s by the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea, which was placed in power after Vietnam invaded Cambodia (Kampuchea) in 1979 to oust the Khmer Rouge. DC-Cam is tracking down the authors of the Renakse Petitions to help them update their complaints and package them for submission to the ECCC, which will try surviving members of the Khmer Rouge (see photo below left—photo credit). For more on the origins of the Renakse Petitions, see here. This rolling work is the closest thing to a truth commission that Cambodia has ever had. Other transitional societies emerging from situations of mass violence and repression have staged truth commissions in order to provide an opportunity for victims to bear witness to the violence they survived under the prior regime.
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission also invited the participation of perpetrators, who could receive amnesty from prosecution if they met certain criteria and revealed details of the crimes they committed or to which they contributed. Our own IntLawGrrl Jaya Ramji-Nogales (below right) has been a longstanding advocate for a truth commission for Cambodia to complement the work of the ECCC. See Jaya Ramji(-Nogales), Reclaiming Cambodian History: The Case for a Truth Commission, 24 Fletcher Forum Of World Affairs 137 (2000). Regrettably, however, it is unlikely that the Royal Government of Cambodia or the international community will push for the establishment of a formal truth commission for Cambodia.
This makes the work of DC-Cam and other local organizations particularly important to personalize the quest for justice & accountability, as it will be impossible for the vast majority of the Khmer Rouge’s victims to participate in any meaningful way in the work of the ECCC. Moreover, only five individuals have been charged. With jurisdiction over only “senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea [the Khmer Rouge] and those who were most responsible for the crimes,” the tribunal will not prosecute low to mid-level Khmer Rouge cadre who may have committed international crimes. The work of DC-Cam is thus necessary to dispel any misconceptions that only the top leaders were responsible for abuses. In fact, as research by Cambodian expert Steve Heder and others has shown, Khmer Rouge cadre were given considerable discretion to implement the sometimes cryptic directives from the Khmer Rouge Standing Committee, so some provinces suffered more than others. See Steve Heder, Reassessing the Role of Senior Leaders and Local Officials in Democratic Kampuchea Crimes: Cambodian Accountability in Comparative Perspective 377, in Bringing the Khmer Rouge to Justice: Prosecuting Mass Violence before the Cambodian Courts (Jaya Ramji & Beth Van Schaack 2005).
These stories are equally as vital to building a shared national history of life under the Khmer Rouge and to further understand the patterns of obedience and violence during that fateful time. For many years, students in Cambodia were taught very little about the Khmer Rouge era. History courses simply skipped over the years 1975-79 with a mere mention of the Khmer Rouge. To rectify this, DC-Cam has recently released a hard copy and online textbook that can be used in high school classes around the country (right). The center has also embarked on a 3-year project to develop human rights curricula for the primary, high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels that will consider the causes and consequences of genocide and mass violence in a number of different settings, including in Cambodia.
In addition to the standard goals of the criminal law—achieving retribution, promoting deterrence, and expressing a community’s opprobrium about disruptive acts—international tribunals are often established with a host of ambitious objectives that include achieving national reconciliation, rehabilitating victims and perpetrators, creating a definitive collective history, and repairing broken societies. Like domestic criminal proceedings, trials before international tribunals do well at ascribing individual criminal responsibility to individual perpetrators, particularly from a “top down” perspective. They can also engage in useful norm enunciation, which can inform domestic efforts to legislate against and prosecute international crimes. Ongoing research on the results of the ad hoc criminal tribunals suggests that international tribunals may be less effective at achieving these other ambitions.
Given the limitations of international trials, the international community must be more active about promoting (and funding) alternative mechanisms within societies to address the crimes of a prior regime. These initiatives can reflect the particular socio-cultural, historical, artistic, religious, and legal culture and promote reconciliation, rehabilitation, reparation, and accountability on the community level. In Cambodia, such an effort could tap into the widely held Buddhist beliefs of the populace (the vast majority of Cambodians practice Therāvada Buddhism), the high levels of respect felt for Buddhist monks and nuns (photo left—credit), and the existing network of monasteries and nunneries. While the work of the ECCC is important and deserves international support, a broader response to the massive crimes of the Khmer Rouge is merited.

Look On! "Iraq for Sale"

(Look On! takes occasional note of noteworthy films.) Want to put in context recent headlines respecting 1 of the several private military contracting companies at work in Iraq; that is, "State Dept. renews Blackwater contract" and "Iraq Contractor in Shooting Case Makes Comeback" and "Blackwater’s Impunity"?
Then try to view the documentary "Iraq for Sale."
Though released 2 years ago, the film tells a story that remains fresh to this day. The 75-minute film is circulating widely now, not only via DVD sales and organized screenings, but also via some cable companies' "on demand" movie feature.
Thought I knew lots about the workings of these companies. The role that private contracting played in abuse at Abu Ghraib, for instance, a shameful episode that indeed is stressed in this film. But the film makes sadly clear that Abu Ghraib is only 1 of many stories to be told. Also aired are allegations that CACI hired translators who couldn't translate, that KBR supplied soldiers contaminated water, that Blackwater knowingly led unknowing civilian truckers into a combat zone where many died. More gripping than the allegations is the anguish of surviving former employees and of the survivors of those who died. A translator says people died because of bad translations. A purification specialist is visibly sickened when talking of the GIs who go home not realizing they have waterborne illnesses. The voices of the surviving truckers, big men, crack when they recall their friends' death under fire.
One of those interviewed puts it all in perspective: A true patriot, he says, would demand that these companies, and the officials who hired them, be held fully accountable.

On May 28

On this day in ...
... 1952, all adult women in Greece secured the right to vote in national elections; they would cast their 1st votes in parliamentary elections 4 years later. Though some women in Greece (flag at left) had been able to vote since 1934, suffrage had been limited to those who were literate and over 30 years of age.
... 1961, British attorney Peter Benenson published an essay entitled "The Forgotten Prisoners" in England's Observer. His account of prisoners of conscience -- in his words, "the several million people" who were "being imprisoned, tortured or executed because [their] opinions or religion are unacceptable to [their] government" -- led to the launching in Belgium next year of the nongovernmental organization Amnesty International.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: Mise En Scène

It was a great pleasure to be back in Phnom Penh (right, Wat Phnom) last week to witness firsthand the proceedings before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) with my colleague Ron Slye of Seattle University School of Law. (An earlier post discusses the substance of the hearings). Ron & I have worked on accountability for the Khmer Rouge since 1995. In that year, our law school received a grant from the U.S. Department of State to study the feasibility and desirability of staging an accounting for the massive crimes of the Khmer Rouge era (1975-79) pursuant to the 1994 Cambodia Genocide Justice Act. The Act called for the establishment of a documentation center, the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), which was founded and is still run by Youk Chhang (left in front of the then-empty ECCC). Ron & I had visited the site of the ECCC a few years ago, when it was largely empty. The site was “donated” by the Ministry of Defense, which still occupies buildings in the compound. At the time, the donation was highly controversial, as there were concerns that the military would attempt to influence trials or at least intimidate participants. This worry has largely dissipated. A bigger issue is the location of the ECCC—it is well out of town, and many NGOs (including DC-Cam) have begun bussing people to the site so that Cambodians can more easily observe the proceedings.

Ron & I attended the proceedings before the ECCC in our capacities as legal advisers to DC-Cam (staff at right, photo credit), a now independent Cambodian NGO dedicated to documenting the history and atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. DC-Cam’s objectives are the promotion of memory and justice, healing the wounds of the past, developing a sound rule of law, and preventing future human rights abuses in Cambodia and abroad. In our visit, we were accompanied by 50 people from various villages outside of Phnom Penh. Part of the work of DC-Cam is to conduct outreach in various parts of the country to educate people about the ECCC proceedings and enable them to participate by attending hearings, constituting themselves as civil parties, or filing complaints against particular defendants. DC-Cam hosted an information session in its office on Tuesday (above left) concerning the nature of the proceedings, the legal standards to be employed, and the various players, and then took the villagers to the Ieng Thirith hearing the next day.

After passing through security (left and below right), where we had to relinquish our cell phones and cameras, we proceeded to a small courtroom. The room seats only 14 members of the public. We were fortunate to be chosen as two of the 14 admitted into the hearing room itself. The larger courtroom is still a work in progress, but the hearing proceedings were broadcast on a screen there for members of the public and the NGO community (left—prior hearing depicted). The small courtroom contains three counsel tables: one for the co-Prosecutors, one for the Co-Defense Counsel, and one for Counsel for the Civil Parties. The defendant was already in the dock when we arrived. The members of the Pre-Trial Chamber (the chamber charged with adjudicating appeals of pre-trial detention orders) sit on a dais in the center of the room flanked by the parties (see photo below). Simultaneous translation is provided (with varying degrees of accuracy) in French, English and Khmer.

Prior to the entry of the judges, select members of the press were allowed in with their cameras. They immediately swarmed around the defendant, clicking furiously. She stared blankly ahead, as though she did not see the photographers. Next, the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber entered, and the press took their photos as well. The press were dismissed, and everyone was seated. Each key moment was signaled by the ringing of a bell by the National Greffier (clerk). The hearing officially opened with the reading of the report of the proceedings by Hout Vuthy, one of the judges. Ieng Thirith, the defendant (left—photo credit), was invited to address the court and answer certain basic biographical questions propounded by Prak Simsan, the Presiding Judge. Pursuant to Rule 22-2 of the Internal Rules, Thirith’s Cambodian lawyer then moved the recognition of his co-counsel, Diana Ellis, a British barrister, as this was her first appearance before the Court.

The parties then made their formal observations, each lawyer speaking in his or her native tongue. At one point, Ellis proposed a 20 minute in camera hearing to discuss particular pieces of evidence regarding the accused. The judges retired for half an hour and ruled that the motion would be granted. The public was dismissed for another half an hour or so, and then the hearing resumed. After the Defense closed, the Co-Prosecutors and Counsel for the Civil Parties made their case in support of the Co-Investigating Judge’s Order for Provisional Detention. The substance of all these arguments is reviewed here. During the recess, we ate a delicious curry in the Court’s canteen and were reunited with several old friends, colleagues, and former students who now occupy various staff positions with the ECCC. At the close of the hearing, Thirith was returned to the small detention center that is located next to the court building.

An interesting feature of the ECCC is that each position is jointly held by a Cambodian and an “international.” There were a couple of instances during the hearing in which co-counsel subtly contradicted or disagreed with each other. One of the criticisms of the ECCC structure is that there is no obvious mechanism to resolve such disputes between co-counsel. The Co-Prosecutors and Co-Defense Counsel are likely to coordinate their positions among themselves over time, but this might be more difficult for the representatives of the civil parties. (There were 5 representatives present during the Thirith hearing).

For me, the highlight of the proceeding was seeing the be-robed members of the PTC enter the courtroom for the first time. The PTC is composed of five judges (right): three Cambodian and two “international” (one is British and the other Dutch). The Pre-Trial Chamber includes Hout Vuthy (below left), a Cambodian jurist. Vuthy was trained in Odessa, Russia and is on the faculty of Norton University (the oldest private university in Cambodia). He has also served as a prosecutor in Kandal Province and was appointed as a member of the Council for Legal and Judicial Reform by the Royal Government of Cambodia. Vuthy was a student of mine in 1995 and 1996 when I co-taught a course in Phnom Penh on International Criminal Law through DC-Cam. Vuthy was a brilliant participant, so it was no surprise when he was appointed to the ECCC. I exchanged smiles with Vuthy at one point, and after the hearing I received a message that he had seen me in the public gallery. One of the greatest sources of pride for a professor is seeing the success of a deserving student. With people of this caliber on the court, there is hope yet for justice for Cambodia.

Creating Effective Assistance Programs for Poor Countries

Funding for technical assistance, particularly in the ever-controversial area of international trade, continues to grow. Every year, both the World Trade Organization and individual member states spend millions of dollars funding technical assistance programs in the developing world. The goal of these programs is to assist developing countries in building the legal infrastructure and institutional capacity to export their goods and services effectively and to attract foreign investment in order to support their development objectives.
In my last post, I asked whether trade-related technical assistance can help poor countries develop. Ultimately, I believe that it can—with some limitations. Assistance will never propel poor countries to prosperity, but it can become a stepping stone to greater participation in world trade. If will managed, trade can lead to greater wealth; it certainly has done so far a number of countries, including China and the “Asian Tigers.”
But some have dismissed technical assistance as a “joke.” Stories of waste, graft, ineptitude or just plain stupidity abound in the technical assistance world (see, for example, Matt Bivens’ article, Aboard the Gravy Train: In Kazakhstan, the Farce That Is U.S. Foreign Aid, in which one assistance provider allegedly took off his swim shorts to give them to a government official who expressed an interest in them; the provider feared if he didn’t keep the official happy, he might not get a renewal of his USAID-funded project). In his book Globalization and its Discontents, one of the most distinguished critics of technical assistance programs, Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz, decries the heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all approach of the International Monetary Fund. Similarly, Amy Chua’s World on Fire highlights the dangers of technical assistance projects that export U.S.-style free markets and democracy to developing countries without the legal and regulatory mechanism to protect against a “market-dominant minority” hijacking the bulk of economic activity.
The technical assistance programs described by Bivens, Stiglitz, Chua and others clearly fall within the bounds of “what not to do”. But technical assistance itself is not a dirty word. As I mentioned in my previous post, to be effective, however, technical assistance must meet certain criteria: (1) Individual projects must have “buy-in” from the recipient country; (2) Assistance providers would do well to remember the human emotions—suspicion and fear on the part of recipient countries must be addressed (“why are they here? What do the really want?”); and (3) Neither recipients nor beneficiaries should offer up more than they can afford to give away (i.e., don’t take your pants off for anyone—literally or figuratively).
In this post, I want to explore other models of assistance that work in partnership with developing countries to achieve goals and objectives identified by the recipients rather than imposed by the donors. Specifically, partnerships between developing countries and universities in the developed world hold out much promise as an effective model for providing technical assistance training. Because many of the trade-related technical assistance projects focus on building a legal infrastructure for development, partnerships between laws schools and beneficiary countries look to be particularly promising.
The World Trade Organization has recently adopted programs that foster such partnerships. In Africa, the WTO works in partnership with local universities to deliver training programs throughout the Continent. Faculty members from the region co-teach some of the courses with WTO personnel. And the WTO is committed to working with local universities to build their capacity in trade law; the universities are expected to play a lead role in course delivery in the future. The promise of these programs is that when technical assistance providers leave, there will be a cadre of educated professionals in the beneficiary country ready, willing and able to “do for themselves.”
In many ways the WTO model offers the perfect opportunity for U.S. law schools. U.S. academic institutions can provide for faculty and student exchanges as well as long-term advanced legal training, thus increasing the pool of local experts and broadening the depth of institutional expertise. U.S. law schools and universities have the comparative advantage in building knowledge, and I believe more of them should get involved in technical assistance projects.
Technical assistance is no joke but a very serious business. If done well, it provides a real opportunity for poor countries to make progress.

On May 27

On this day in ...
... 1907, Rachel Carson (right) was born "in the rural river town of Springdale, Pennsylvania." Inheriting from her mother "a life-long love of nature," she studied after college at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, and in 1932 received a master's degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University. As a writer on nature and wildlife she "rose to become Editor-in-Chief of all publications for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service" in 1936. She is best know for her book Silent Spring (1962), which took on agribusiness and the government in exposing how the use of synthetic-chemical pesticides harmed the natural environment. Carson died from breast cancer in 1964.
... 1996, in Moscow, Russian President Boris Yeltsin entered a ceasefire agreement with Chechnya's rebel leader, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. The accord was intended to bring an end to 17 months of fighting in the southwestern province of the Russian Federation. But "sporadic violence continues" to this day.

Monday, May 26, 2008

In Honor of the California Supreme Court Ruling: Liberty & Justice For All


(Today -- Memorial Day in the United States -- IntLawGrrls presents photos of past observances of this woman-started event. All are courtesy of the Library of Congress' archive of photos from a newspaper no longer in existence, the Chicago Daily News)

1917: A fur-stole-clad Ella Cermak, presumably the daughter of Anton J. Cermak, then a state legislator and later mayor, "posing with a soldier in front of a light colored panel for Tag Day, i.e. Memorial Day, in a room in Chicago, Illinois." (credit)

circa 1904: "Image of a Memorial Day observation, with children with American flags gathered among the tombstones in a cemetery in Chicago, Illinois." (credit)

1922: A young girl and 3 servicemembers stand at a decorated grave at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois. (credit)

On May 26

On this day in ...
... 1966, on the 1st day of Guyana's independence from Britain, the new state's 1st constitution came into effect. Sandwiched on the northern coast of South America, between Venezuela and Suriname, the country remains a Republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.
... 1916, Phyllis Norton was born. While an undergraduate at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, she married Grant B. Cooper, whom she described as "a well-known trial lawyer." She pursued that same career path; Phyllis Norton Cooper earned her J.D. from USC Law School in 1938. In 2001 she wrote of her law studies:

Perhaps one of the reasons we felt so empowered was the support we received from female graduates who visited us on campus and encourage us to succeed ... women like Georgia Bullock, who graduated in 1914 and became the first woman appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court; 1913 graduate Litta Belle Hibben Campbell, the first woman to graduate No. 1 in the class and the first female deputy district attorney in the nation; 1914 graduate May Lahey, who served on the probate court; 1916 graduate Mabel Walker Willebrandt [far left], who became an assistant U.S. attorney general; and 1918 graduate Anita V. Robbins, who became the first female deputy public defender. They inspired us by the example of their lives in the law.
Herself described as a "trailblazer for women in law," Norton Cooper joined her husband in representing Sirhan Sirhan, who would be convicted of the 1968 assassination of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy the night of his victory in the California Democratic Presidential primary. (credit for photo of Willebrandt, "an honest, determined U.S. Assistant Attorney General in charge of prohibition," standing behind President Calvin Coolidge)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Alien Tort action update

As I've written, in Sosa v. Alvarez Machain, the Supreme Court did not entirely rule out bringing suits against transnational corporations (TNCs). Nor did it exactly rule them in: it stated that when creating causes of action for violations of international customary human rights norms, judges must consider the international consequences of their actions. And their example of a questionable case was the one then pending before the District Court in New York against numerous TNCs claimed to have participated in or contributed to apartheid in South Africa through their operations there. Following the State Department's recommendation, that court then dismissed those cases. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals then reinstated them, remanding for trial on an "aiding and abetting" theory. With the support of the Justice Department, defendants appealed to the Supreme Court, seeking to put an end to the case. But the Court lacked a quorum of six to take the case--four Justices of the Supreme Court have investments in some of the companies involved, so the 2nd Circuit decision stands and the case will go forward.
Meanwhile back in January, Chief Justice John Roberts denied a request by Exxon Mobil to halt evidence gathering in a case brought against it by Indonesian villagers. Exxon then sought an immediate appeal to the D.C. Circuit because the District Court judge had not dismissed the case in its entirety. When the issue of Exxon's right to an immediate appeal came before the Supreme Court earlier this month, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement urged denial: the District Court had accepted that pursuing claims brought under the Alien Tort Statute against Exxon regarding its use of Indonesian military personnel as security guards would cause foreign policy complications with Indonesia, one of the US's allies in the "war on terror." It therefore dismissed them, and dismissed the case against Exxon's Indonesian partner, a company owned by the Indonesian government. All that remains of Exxon Mobil, et al., v. Doe I are state common law tort for wrongful death, battery, arbitrary arrest and detention, etc. (Thanks to Scotusblog for the head's up on these.)
Will these cases cancel each other out? Will they settle, as did Unocal, thereby depriving all concerned of a judgment on corporate liability for violations of human rights (torture or summary execution as opposed to battery or wrongful death)?

On May 25

On this day in ...
... 1946, the emirate of Trans-Jordan became the independent state now known as Jordan (flag at left), with the coronation of its former emir as King Abdullah Ibn Ul-Hussein in what the New York Times' correspondent peculiarly called "spectacular ceremonies and amid a setting that in some respects resembled a frontier town in the Western United States when the first railroad came through." The 1st king was assassinated in 1951 en route to al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem; his great-grandson, Abdullah II, now rules the country.
... 1810, Argentinians asserted their autonomy from Napoleonic Spain, 1 of many events in what came to be known as la Semana de Mayo during which the "United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata" were established. A declaration of independence would not be formalized for another half-dozen years; a constitution not until 1853. Today is celebrated as el Día de la Revolución de Mayo in Argentina.