The Wisconsin International Law Journal 20014 Symposium addressed the Creation of International Law: Exploring the International Components of Peace. The Conference commenced with a keynote speech by Penny Andrews, Dean of Albany Law School, on “Justice, Reconciliation and the Masculinist Way: What Role for Women in Truth Commissions?” She discussed the tendency of truth commissions to focus on male victims, rendering women secondary status as the mothers, wives, and sisters of men, and thus unrecognized as their engagement is not characterized as public resistance of oppression. She also criticized the phenomenon of truth commissions to belittle the process of receiving testimony from women describing the violations they endure, describing themselves as becoming “Kleenex Commissions” because of having to witness so many tears. She concluded that truth commissions have not been very transformative and there remains a challenge to reform them so that they can promote cultural changes to ensure that women will experience freedom from violence, fair access to economic resources, and freedom from subordination in order to enjoy true citizenship.
Hannah Woolaver, of the University of Cape Town, South Africa presented an analysis of “State Failure, Sovereign Equality and Non-Intervention: Assessing Claimed Rights to Intervene in Failed States”. She noted that there is no agreement among States, IOs, and academics on the definition or legal consequences of State failure. She proposes that the principle of equality of states requires full protection for the failed states’ territorial integrity and political independence. Troy Lavers, of University of Leicester, argued for a return to the Uniting for Peace Resolution, in order to reduce the dominance of the Security Council in conflict resolution.
Doris Buss, of Carleton University Canada, lamented the ‘almost complete invisibility of gender in state-building;’ and called for a feminist analysis of which political institutions are being built and how they will address women’s post-conflict needs and to what extent women will be included in these institutions.
Gina Heathcote provided a very engaging critique of the use of military force in the form of Security Council peacekeeping operations, explaining how the protection of women, children (and elephants) should not be used as the rationale for use of force because it ignores the agency of local communities and brings risk as ‘force begets force.’
The conference also demonstrated the contribution legal scholars can make towards providing a scope of reference on the components of positive peace: Tuba Turn, of the University of Essex, explained positive peace in both theory and application by the United Nations, Shireen Daft, of Macquarie Law School in Sydney, called upon legal scholars to take on Human Security in order to illustrate its relevance to peace, and Amrei Muller, of the University of Oslo, Norway, provided a normative overview of the standards relating to the Right to Health in IHL>
Rosa Freedman, of the University of Birmingham, proposed that the right to peace is an example of hybridity and should be recognized as representing the values of nations from the South.
Christine Chinken, of LSE, provided a second Keynote Address on “Negotiating a Feminist Convention: The European Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence’. She noted the striking lack of knowledge among criminal justice officials on the basics of Women’s Human Rights and importance of disseminating these standards. She explained the important contribution of the Convention in that it is the first treaty recognizing the due diligence obligation. She proved most inspiring in demonstrating the importance of participation by women in the process of international lawmaking.
Alexandras Huneeus, of University of Wisconsin, and Elisabeth Salom, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, addressed the contribution of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as a quasi-criminal tribunal in calling for prosecution at the national level in the battle against impunity and the quest to establish the rule of law.
Edda Kristjansdottir, of the University of Amsterdam, provided a fascinating overview of how difficult it is to identify heirs in cases involving reparations from international tribunals, due to local variance in inheritance laws and customs.
The conference then turned to weapons, with Hitomi Takemura, of Kyushu University, Japan, warning that the dehumanizing effect of the use of drones and Cindy Whang, of Fu Jen Catholic University of Taiwan, lamented the lack of proper enforcement mechanisms for the Arms Trade Treaty.
The last panel described the significant challenge of protection of the environment, climate change, and access to water with important presentations by Christina Voigt, of the University of Oslo, Sumudu Atapattu, of the University of Wisconsin, and Inga Winkler of the German Institute of Human Rights.
The conference ended with Karima Bennoune’s (UC Davis) presentation of the women activists of Afghanistan who fear increased oppression by the Taliban upon withdrawal of Western Troops. Hilary Charlesworh, ANU, was gracious in skyping after concluding the Whaling Case at the ICJ and calling upon women to invoke men into joining the initiative to attain gender equality.
Kudos to Kenny Ho and Justin Regan, the Law Review editors, for their support and huge thank you to Sumudu Atapattu for her hospitality and committment to ensuring that the network is inclusive of women from different regions.
The Creation of International Law Network commenced in Oslo in 2009 as an initiative to provide a space for women scholars of international law to meet each other, exchange ideas, and promote networking across disciplines and generations.
The conference proved very important for introducing women scholars to the various different fields in which we work- the key is to dismantle fragmentation- exhibit curiosity- and demonstrate openness to learning from others. We hope that the next Creation of International law Conference will take place in another region of our world.