To launch the new course City hosted an evening focused around 'Opportunties in International Law' with four speakers involved in international law in very different ways. They were: Nigel Parker (FCO), Professor Peter Slinn (University of Notre Dame), Andrew Hickman (Environmental Justice Foundation) and Carla Clarke (Minority Rights Group International).
Rojin Kiadeh (GELLB1) reports on the event:
The Opportunities in International Law event invited a panel discussion with leading experts in the field. This included Nigel Parker from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Andrew Hickman from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).
Nigel Parker kick-started the event with his experiences in working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He illustrated the wide spectrum of law the Foreign Office deals with, ranging from the preparation of cases against the UK in the European Court of Human Rights, to the vast amount of judicial review cases. Interestingly, the work is proximate to the decision making, so much so that the Office was directly involved in the drafting of the highly influential Lisbon Treaty.
City alumnus Andrew Hickman then took to the floor, describing his ‘detective work’ in identifying illegal fishing practices in the waters of Sierra Leone. Examining pictures to identify vessels (‘ship spotting’), counteracting false claims of legal fishing and presenting cases to lawyers are the basis of his work but unlike working for the government, the EJF attempt to get as close to the decision making as possible. Thus he emphasised the large extent to which maritime law, which is sometimes forgotten, is growing into an international problem that needs to be combated by future lawyers.
Overall the event gave a great overview of the wide range of careers available in Public International Law. It painted a colourful picture of the exciting opportunities open to students and all the speakers spoke with great enthusiasm about their respective areas. Whether it is drafting EU treaties or catching fishermen in Sierra Leone, the importance of international law is as relevant as ever and the City Law School recognised this in the form of the LLM in Public International Law. I, for one, left the event with a new found appreciation of International Law.
The international law talk held at City University on the 8th March provided an invaluable insight into an area of law that is growing and proving to be more and more relevant in our increasingly globalised world.
As well as presenting City’s new LLM in Public International Law, the talk featured four speakers who shared their varying experiences within the field of international law.
One of the speakers was Professor Peter Slinn; formerly Head of the Law department and Director of International studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, he is currently Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame.
Having qualified as a solicitor in 1967, he began his career as a legal adviser in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. His experience as a practitioner and as an academic in the field allows for a great depth of perspective on the growing importance of this area of law, an area he says has vastly developed since his qualification as a solicitor: pointing out the fact that in 1967 there were very few textbooks on international law in itself underlines its growing importance in modern society.
He emphasised the significance of international criminal law and international environmental law and how they have become fields in their own right, again a contrast to his early academic career. The International Court of Justice is now overflowing with cases and features many lawyers acting on behalf of states and individuals in international law. The International Tribunals have also had an astounding influence on this area and have widened this particular career path.
State litigation with private corporations has also expanded enormously, as well as the opportunity for international lawyers to work in arbitration. The fact is that international issues have become national issues and have as a result arisen in national courts.
Slinn notably highlights the prominence of international law in all areas of society by citing ‘The Sun’ headlines at the time of the Iraq war; indeed, there is no way to escape its growing importance.
Carla Clarke, Head of Legal Cases at Minority Rights Group International, was another speaker at the talk. She demonstrated the increasing importance that NGOs have in the legal process, particularly with regards to the international field.
Carla obtained her MA in Human Rights and spent 3 years in the Philippines, trained as a solicitor with the Government Legal Service, and has since done a substantial amount of work with Minority Rights Group International.
The organisation focuses on the rights of ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious minorities, and has been active since the 1960s. There is a heavy focus on research, highlighted by their yearly report ‘State of World's Minorities’. An integral part of the NGO, which sets it apart from others, is its advocacy, litigation and lobbying. The legal cases programme provides the organisation with a platform to directly enforce their core values in the international arena.
A particularly inspiring case that Carla focused on is the situation that arose in the Endorois, a group of 60,000 indigenous peoples in Kenya who were essentially turfed off their land in the 1970s for the purposes of tourism. Their demand to obtain recognition for their land was vocalised and lobbied by Minority Rights Group International.
She spoke of the plight faced by minorities groups and the ways in which her NGO have raised these issues in the international field; some cases have exposed the conflict of theoretical law with politics, and the difficulty raised by reconciling them.
On the whole her talk underlined the absolute importance of NGOs in the field of international law; her career path exposed a route into an international law-related career which can have such an astoundingly positive influence on the well-being and livelihoods of so many.
The talk was a refreshing presentation of an alternative career path which I have sought to find out more about during my time at City. In particular, Carla Clarke’s talk inspired me as her career path is one that is not readily well-known and yet which forms an increasingly integral role as the responsibility and significance of NGOs continues to progress.
What appears to be encouraging is the incredible amount of influence international law now has on states and their relationships with one another. The recent first International Criminal Court judgment on Lubanga is a milestone which reinforces the culpability of individuals in the arena of international law and which will certainly continue to grow in importance in the future.