Johann Ebongom, one of several Georgia Law students who traveled to Washington last month as Louis B. Sohn Professional Development Fellows, reflects below on that experience. This Saturday Ebongom, a lawyer from Cameroon, will receive his Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree at our commencement ceremony.
From April 12-15, I, along with University of Georgia School of Law classmates, volunteered at the 111th annual meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington, D.C. What a great networking occasion for young students interested in the legal management of international affairs and the development of a stronger and more efficient international rule of law.
I was so excited to be offered an opportunity to be a privileged observer of one the world’s biggest and most prestigious international law gatherings, particularly in a time when most nations have adopted new policies towards the protection of their interests and the security of their citizens. With the Brexit in Europe, the Syrian crisis in Middle East, the North Korean nuclear tests, the relationship between African countries and the International Criminal Court, and the recent foreign-policy-related decisions of the current President of the United States of America, no need to say that this year’s ASIL meeting was a decisive one! As an LL.M. student at Georgia Law who has a keen interest in global affairs, I could not ask for a better way to strengthen my analysis and understanding for future research.
For three days, I had the great fortune to listen and interact with experts, scholars, judges, and practitioners coming from various institutions, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Criminal Court, and the U.S. Department of State, among others. Several people shared with me valuable career advice. This experience was further highlighted by an in-depth exchange with Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the ICC, on the inevitable collaboration between the ICC and the soon-to-be-established African Court of Justice, which will lead to a reform of the current hierarchical organization of the international criminal justice system. Also, I enjoyed meeting Georgia Law alums – whom I’ve found always willing to assist.
The conference principally questioned the values of international law at a time when the world is subject to several events that might well compromise the value of international frameworks most nations had once believed in. The main highlighted issue seems to reside in the application or implementation of international law principles. Nations usually sign and ratify international conventions; however, these are far from being implemented, precisely in countries that are powerful enough to bypass the international order to preserve their interests.
It was an honor and privilege to represent Georgia Law as an LL.M. student. Being present for this year’s annual meeting was an inspiration for me, to one day enter the conversation in the hopes of creating a more just, more livable, and more connected world. I am very grateful to the Dean Rusk International Law Center for all its efforts and support in ensuring we have an unforgettable and fruitful time at the University of Georgia School of Law.
For other international law-minded Georgia Law students: Participating in an ASIL annual meeting is a good start to meet the international law community and benefit from invaluable advice! Do not hesitate to join next time.