FT profiles alumna Ertharin Cousin’s continued efforts to end hunger

cousin-1Among our most distinguished Georgia Law alumnae is Ertharin Cousin, who earned her Juris Doctor degree in 1982. She has served since 2012 as the Executive Director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme – an appointment that followed service as a U.S. ambassador on food insecurity issues. Based at the 53-year-old Programme’s headquarters in Rome, Italy, Cousin leads the world’s largest humanitarian organization: its 11,000-plus staffers combat hunger and food insecurity on behalf of more than 80 million persons in 82 countries.

The London-based Financial Times acquainted its readers with Cousin earlier this month, featuring her in a “Q&A with Ertharin Cousin” in its FT Weekend Magazine. Amid a mix of personal and professional topics, Cousin noted that she was a member of the 1st class of girls at Chicago’s Lane Tech High School and an undergraduate at the University of Illinois before becoming a law student at the University of Georgia. Asked about politics, she said:

“Everyone should recognise the importance of the political process and the election of good people, regardless of party, who can represent the vulnerable.”

Her greatest achievement?

“When the conflict began in South Sudan, two and a half, three years ago, the NGO community, working together, avoided a famine.”

Continuing ambition?

“Ending hunger. The mission of most of my adult life has been giving people access to affordable, nutritious food wherever they are.”

We at Georgia Law were honored to welcome Cousin as the keynote speaker at the 2013 symposium of our Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law (pictured above), and we look forward to March 2017, when our Law School Association will give her a Distinguished Service Scroll Award.

Distinguished jurist Pillay discusses state sovereignty, human rights

duo“The biggest violators of human rights are states themselves, by commission or omission.”

This quote by Navi Pillay aptly summarized her talk on “National Sovereignty vs. International Human Rights.” Pillay, whose renowned legal career has included posts as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and as a judge on the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, spoke this morning at the University of Georgia School of Law Atlanta campus.

Elaborating on the quote above, Pillay decried national legislation aimed at restricting the activities – and with it the effectiveness – of local nongovernmental organizations. Such anti-NGO laws already have passed in Russia and are pending in Pillay’s home state of South Africa, among other countries. That said, she welcomed new means of speaking law to power; in particular, social media that permit human rights advocates to reach millions. Also welcomed were accountability mechanisms that the United Nations has developed in recent decades, such as Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council, reporting processes of treaty bodies, and reports by special rapporteurs.

amann_pillayI was honored to give welcoming remarks at the breakfast. Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, which I lead, cosponsored this Georgia WILL event with the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and Georgia State University’s Global Studies Institute. (We owe special thanks to Judge Dorothy Toth Beasley for her hospitality this week.)

Conversing with Pillay was World Affairs Council President Charles Shapiro. They began by speaking of Pillay’s childhood in Durban, where she grew up the daughter of a bus driver. She spoke of how testifying as a 6-year-old in the trial of a man who’d stolen money from her helped spark her desire to become a lawyer – and how donations from her community helped make that dream a reality.

Shapiro then asked about capital punishment, noting a scheduled execution. Pillay acknowledged the absence of any universal treaty outlawing the death penalty, but found evidence of U.N. opposition both in the decision not to permit the penalty in U.N. ad hoc international criminal tribunals and in the growing support for the oft-repeated U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment.

“It started with just 14 states against the death penalty, and is now more than 160,” said Pillay, who currently serves on the International Commission against the Death Penalty.

img_0335On this and other issues, she said, advocates endeavor to encourage states first to obligate themselves to respect and ensure human rights, and then to implement the undertakings they have made in this regard:

“The United Nations was formed by states. It is a club of governments. Look how steadily they have adopted treaties and agreed to be bound by them. That doesn’t mean we are transgressing sovereignty.”

70 years ago, landmark international criminal law judgment at Nuremberg

This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, a moment recorded in this New York Times front page:

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The judgment established that humans, and not only states, may be held responsible for violations of international law – a principle that the General Assembly endorsed in 1950. Recognition that individual acts mattered in the international law soon opened the way for recognition that acts committed against individuals also mattered. The Nuremberg Judgment thus stands as a foundational moment in the international human rights movement, as was recognized inter alia in a 1982 article by Georgia Law Professor Louis B. Sohn, when he was Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law, a position I am now honored to hold.

Another Georgia Law professor who’s written about Nuremberg is my colleague Harlan Grant Cohen; these works include: ‘Undead’ Wartime Cases: Stare Decisis and the Lessons of History (2010); Historical American Perspectives on International Law (2009); The American Challenge to International Law: A Tentative Framework for Debate (2003).

My own writings, available here, include studies of the meaning of genocide and essays on women who worked as prosecutors, defense lawyers, and staff (no judges) at postwar trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo. “Women at Nuremberg” is a subject that many IntLawGrrls have addressed, not to mention many more posts on all aspects of international criminal law and international human rights law.

UN affiliate CIFAL Atlanta: Our new International Judicial Training partner

Cifal AtlantaBeginning this year, Georgia Law’s annual International Judicial Training will be offered in partnership with CIFAL Atlanta, an affiliate of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, or UNITAR.

UNITAR_Vertical_Logo_35mm_Blue-Pantone279C-01-pngCIFAL Atlanta joins an International Judicial Training partnership forged in the late 1990s by Georgia Law’s 2016IJT_fullDSDean Rusk International Law Center and the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education of Georgia. For nearly 20 years, the trainings have provided provided a high-level learning experience to foreign judges. Included are seminars with distinguished Georgia Law faculty and visits to a variety of courts around the state.

As one of several training centers across the globe linked to UNITAR, CIFAL Atlanta works to build capacity among local governments and civil society leaders, with particular emphases on economic and infrastructure development, fair trade, and good governance.

The 2016 International Judicial Training, to be held November 27 to December 10, will advance Goal 16 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is

E_SDG_Icons-16“dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.”

Leaders of the new collaboration, which extends the trainings’ global outreach, include two Georgia Law graduates: Chris Young, CIFAL Executive Director, and Laura Tate Kagel, Director of International Professional Education at the Dean Rusk International Law Center. They work alongside Richard Reaves, Executive Director of the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education of Georgia, who brings decades of experience in organizing continuing education seminars for judges. Reaves’ extensive contacts throughout Georgia create opportunities for informative exchanges between the international judges and their U.S. counterparts. In Kagel’s words:

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In Georgia Law’s James E. Butler Courtroom, Richard Reaves talks with foreign judges during an International Judicial Training

“The International Judicial Training is more than simply an educational program. It can lead to significant reforms in terms of effective administration of justice and stimulate cross-cultural relationships that can bear fruit for years to come.”

Providing an example of this is Fernando Cerqueira Norberto, Secretary-General of ENFAM, the governing body of Brazilian judicial colleges. According to Cerqueira, Brazilian judges’ longstanding participation in the International Judicial Training correlates to the adoption in his country of innovations such as small claims courts, mediation procedures, and drug courts.

Judges and court personnel from all countries are welcome to apply for the 2016 International Judicial Training; further details and registration are available here.

In US and across globe, 105th International Women’s Day

about-iwdToday’s the 105th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

Inspired by speeches at an International Conference of Working Women the year before, in 1911 Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland set aside a day in March to honor women’s demands for equality. Each year more countries joined in. The arrest of suffragist Sylvia Pankhurst during a London demonstration on March 8, 1914, fixed the 8th as IWD-Day. (credit for IWD image at top)

Further globalizing the Day was U.N. General Assembly Resolution 32/142. Adopted on Dec. 16, 1977 (the same day the Assembly also considered a Draft Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a version of which it would adopt 2 years later), Resolution 32/142:

Invites all States to proclaim, in accordance with their historical and national traditions and customs, any day of the year as United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace …”

Most countries followed tradition and chose March 8, and paid note to annual U.N. themes (this year’s is #PledgeforParity).

The United States was a bit late to the party. Yet American observances increase every year, and last week, President Barack Obama proclaimed:

“I call upon all Americans to observe this month and to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016, with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities. I also invite all Americans to visit http://www.WomensHistoryMonth.gov to learn more about the generations of women who have left enduring imprints on our history.”

And so we will.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

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