International Law and the Future of Peace

dianeSeveral participants noted that the Women and International Law Interest Group Luncheon honoring Diane Marie Amann with the Prominent Woman in International Law Award was the highlight of this year’s ASIL annual conference.  The event, which sold out twice (even after being moved to a larger space), was crowded with many of us grateful for Diane’s tremendous mentoring as well as her mentors, who in the words of Vivian Grosswald Curran (who’s known Diane for twenty years) have watched proudly as this young woman shining with brilliance, commitment, and integrity has grown into a renowned scholar who continues to dazzle us with all of these traits today.

Through her talk on “International Law and the Future of Peace,” Diane aimed to shift the focus of the debate to talk about peace rather than war.  She did so quite successfully, deftly interweaving the stories of historical female pacifists with a sharp-eyed analysis of the law of armed conflict.  Diane will post her full remarks tomorrow at her blog, Diane Marie Amann, and IntLawGrrls, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak preview.

Diane began with the stories of first wave feminists who were staunchly committed to pacifism, focusing on Jane Addams, who founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and won the Nobel Prize but was denied membership in the American Society of International Law and Jeannette Rankin, the female member of Congress who voted against entering into World War I and II.

Drawing on the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr., Diane drew a distinction between negative peace, or the absence of tension, and positive peace, or the presence of justice.  She cited the work of Johan Galtung for the point that a fuller understanding of peace includes the challenge of reducing direct violence through the non-use of force without enabling exploitation, or structural violence.

Starting from the days of the UN Charter, Diane discussed international law on the use of force and the legal framework’s failure to put an end to war.  She focused on three doctrines condoning violence: de-linking self-defense from imminence, attacks “in the spirit of the UN Charter”, and humanitarian intervention, and criticized this “valorization of militarism” (citing IntLawGrrl Beth Van Schaack).  Diane reminded us that even just wars lead to suffering and death, while disregarding non-forcible options for peace.

Diane turned again to the work of Jane Addams, who criticized the war footing as depriving women of key values such as the prioritizing of individual liberty over collective fear and the belief that human life is sacred.  Applying this perspective to the example of Syria, she noted the failures of diplomacy, particularly Russia’s refusal to exert pressure over regime.  Diane sketched the outlines of an alternate approach prioritizing pacific settlement.  First, we must pinpoint the lines drawn by international law.  For example, humanitarian intervention must still follow the rules of international humanitarian law.  Second, even well-intended violence begets violence.  Diane noted here that weapons looted in Libya are now being used in Mali.  Finally, we must meet the challenges of improving global society.  In other words, states should follow the highest internationalist standards and demand that others do so as well

Diane noted that during World War I, Addams advocated for the United States to protect and preserve highest standards of internationalism by, for example, sending food to Europe even for women and children of enemies.  Diane suggested that children are a focus of feminism, and feminists often seek peace for the sake of new generations.

Diane ended her talk with two calls, one to ASIL’s Women in International Law Group to:

  • Honor our foremothers by reading, teaching, and writing about women
  • Ask ASIL to right century-old wrongs by offering posthumous membership to women wrongly denied membership
  • Honor Alona Evans for her long service – as ASIL’s first woman president in 1980, she died after a year of her tenure, leaving $40,000 to ASIL.  Diane suggested that ASIL make Evans the namesake of its donor level patrons.

Her final call was to scholars and practitioners to foreground non-forcible measures, to fully consider any intervention, and to expose to searching international law scrutiny every use of armed force.  In other words, we must raise voices, like Diane’s, that speak law to power.


(cross-posted on ASIL Cables)


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