International law for public interestPublished 10 May 2019
Advocating for public interests with international law can take many forms, say speakers of this year’s summer programme on international lawyering in a public interest.
What does it mean to be an international public interest lawyer in today’s global world? What are the challenges and opportunities of international public interest advocacy? Innovators and experienced practitioners address these questions during the International lawyering in a public interest summer programme co-organised by the Asser Institute and Amsterdam Center for International Law (ACIL).
A lawyer without the court
Practicing law is often complicated enough. There is no surprise that doing so while focusing on issues of public interest in an international setting may prove to be even more demanding.
“Historically, lawyers have been described as Officers of the Court,” says Rob Houston, Executive Director of The Global Pro Bono Bar Association, and one of our speakers this year. “But what does it mean to be an Officer of the Court where there is no Court?”
One answer can be found in the work of Mr Houston’s organisation, namely, channeling crucial legal expertise and resources into areas of greater need. The overall goal of the Global Pro Bono Bar Association is to empower individual advocates of conscience around the world to realise universal human rights, human dignity, and critical public interest advocacy.
They seek to do so by increasing the legal support capacity of local advocates, connecting them with more experienced lawyers in areas of excess. The Global Pro Bono Bar Association will share insights into network building for international public interests, such as how to find causes and partners, and how to join or build a team.
Rob Houston: “Global law firms' business conflicts, jurisdictional sensitivities, and challenges to scalability and complexity of public interest projects are all topics of interests that should be discussed.”
“There are essential connections that exist between the very personal conception of one's professional identity as a lawyer and overarching issues in the global legal profession that present broader challenges to motivating public interest movements,” says Mr Houston.
Prosecuting over human rights violations
Also speaking at this year’s summer programme is the director of the Global Legal Action Network’s GLAN, Dr Gearóid Ó Cuinn. He and his organisation are committed to the mobilisation of public international law through legal action addressing transnational human rights concerns, a topic which he will discuss during the one-week summer programme. Dr Ó Cuinn and the Global Legal Action Network have worked directly with human rights groups in Palestine and Syria and provided legal support for numerous NGO's internationally.
Recent examples of the Global Legal Action Network’s (GLAN) work include a case against Greece in the European Court of Human Rights over the crackdown on humanitarian organisations, and a complaint against Dutch ship-building firm for allegedly profiting from the exploitation of North Korean labourers. In addition, they have been instrumental to progressing legislation in Ireland criminalizing the trade in goods made in occupied territories, have contributed to new technologies for monitoring humanitarian abuses in conflict zones, and have initiated novel litigation addressing climate change. They will offer insights into creative and effective action strategies, based on the wealth of their hands-on experience.
Speak! What’s up?
Nathalie Dijkman is the project manager of the Start-Up Incubator at the University of Amsterdam’s Law Hub. She is also a social entrepreneur in her own right, as the co-founder and CEO of SEMA. Sema is a Swahili word meaning “Speak! What’s up?”. Meanwhile, SEMA is a social enterprise posing the same question to the users (and providers) of public services in East Africa. As described by Nathalie Dijkman, CEO of SEMA, “We are a social enterprise that gathers data […] with the aim to increase transparency and accountability of public services in East Africa.”
The work of SEMA represents a different approach to improving public institutions and ensuring improved service delivery. In her work at the Law Hub, Nathalie guides other innovators to empower start-up potential in the justice sector. Participants will have the opportunity to learn from Dijkman’s experience and think outside the box to launch public interest advocacy internationally.
Asser’s programme on international lawyering in a public interest
The Asser Institute is proud to organise another edition of International lawyering in a public interest where similar questions will be discussed in greater detail by academics, practitioners, and activists alike. How do you find funding? How to identify causes for advocacy? How to start up your practice? What does it mean to be an international public advocacy lawyer in general?
During this one-week summer programme, participants will explore the challenges of public interest advocacy in international law and learn from leaders in practice, including advocates, activists, academics and members of NGOs. The summer programme will take place at the Asser Institute from 8-12 July, 2019. Learn more about speakers, programme, and registration here.
Strand C: Adequate Dispute Settlement and Adjudication in International and European Law
The International lawyering in a public interest summer programme is part of the Asser research strand on Dispute Settlement and Adjudication in International and European Law. This research strand is organised around inquiry into attributes of trustworthy dispute settlement in international adjudication. It also further explores new, alternative and interdisciplinary methods for analysing fundamental changes in international institutions and in international law.