Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin: In Passing

ImageSadly, Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin has died. She was a tremendously influential figure in international environmental law, through her work on international agreements, her many years as Head of the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, and her contributions to capacity building in this field. From the IUCN tribute:

Françoise was instrumental in drafting and elaborating a number of international conventions, agreements and instruments, such as the African Convention for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora –CITES; the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals; the World Charter for Nature; the ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Her real passion was the development of technical capacities through access to information on environmental law and policy. That is why already in the 1970s, she initiated the Environmental Law Information System (ELIS), presented at the Stockholm Conference, which over the years evolved into the far more sophisticated online information system ECOLEX, the Gateway to Environmental Law.

Military Intervention in Syria: The International Law Framework

Amid reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in a recent attack, the United States government has been leaning toward the likelihood of a military intervention in Syria.  Secretary of State John Kerry stated on Monday that there was “undeniable evidence” that Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own people.  Kerry called for “accountability” in light of this type of attack, which he called a “moral obscenity.”  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the BBC that U.S. forces were ready to carry out a strike against Syria, and that such a strike could take place within several days.  Senior U.S. officials also stated that strikes could be carried out as early as Thursday (August 29).  Finally, President Obama held telephone talks with the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the French President Francois Hollande, in order to potentially lay out the groundwork for a near-future military strike.  In addition to the United States’ government’s recent assertions that a military strike against Syria may be in the works, other countries followed suit and expressed similar sentiments, highlighting the possibility of a joint military action against Syria by the United States and some of its allies, namely Great Britain and France.  David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, recalled members of Parliament from vacation and announced that lawmakers would vote on Thursday on any proposal for action.  Cameron characterized the alleged attacks as “absolutely abhorrent,” called for action from the international community, and stated that Great Britain was considering a proportionate response.  Both the UK Foreign Minister and the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hinted that a military action without United Nations Security Council authorization may occur, because of great humanitarian need.  It is thus possible that the United States, Great Britain, and France would engage in some type of presumably limited military action against Syria without Security Council approval, in what could constitute a true humanitarian intervention (because both Russia and China seem to oppose any type of military intervention against Syria, it is highly likely that these countries would block any proposed Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria).

Does international law authorize states to use force against other states in instances other than self-defense and Security Council authorization? Some have suggested that the 1999 NATO-led military intervention in Kosovo constitutes a precedent for humanitarian intervention, and that this precedent could apply to the Syrian situation. However, Kosovo was referred to as “sui generis” by the United States’ officials, who were at the time quick to point out that Kosovo could not be used as precedent for the assertion that states may use military force against other states based on humanitarian need and without Security Council approval.  In addition, scholarly opinion is at best mixed on the subject of whether humanitarian intervention has become an international norm authorizing the unilateral use of force.   It is thus doubtful that the case of Kosovo can serve as strong legal precedent for the Syrian situation today.  It will be interesting nonetheless to follow academic debate on this subject, and we hope that more Intlawgrrls will post on the topic in the near future.

Does the fact that Syrian authorities have likely used chemical weapons somehow change the legal analysis about the use of force? In other words, would countries such as the United States, Great Britain, and France have a better legal argument to justify their potential military intervention in Syria without Security Council authorization just because chemical weapons seem to have been used by Assad? Not necessarily.  As Kevin Jon Heller pointed out on Opinio Juris:

Why is the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians with chemical weapons unacceptable, but not the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians with ordinary weapons? Why should the US be willing to intervene if chemical weapons kill 1,000 civilians, but not if ordinary weapons kill tens of thousands?

In other words, the use of chemical weapons, as well as indiscriminate attacks against civilians, are terrible and violate international humanitarian law; however, they do not influence the legal analysis about the unilateral use of force…. unless one can prove that humanitarian intervention has risen to the level of a binding customary norm, constituting thereby an exception to the ban on the use of force absent self defense and Security Council authorization.

Finally, it is interesting to highlight recent commentary on the Syrian situation by Richard Haass, president of the Council of Foreign Relations and former high-level government official.  Haass had been a proponent of the so-called “involuntary sovereignty waiver” theory in the 1990’s – the idea that countries which engage in reprehensible actions, such as harboring weapons of mass destruction, promoting terrorism, or committing atrocities against their own people lose their sovereignty and thereby invite intervention by other countries (such as the United States) (Professor Michael Kelly and yours truly have written about the involuntary sovereignty wavier theory in law review articles as well as a recent book).  While Haass seemed to embrace the idea that law-abiding nations could legally intervene in unilateral military fashion against “rogue” states, his response to the Syrian catastrophe seemed more nuanced. Haass stated that while military action may be needed against Syria to prevent a further use of chemical weapons, any such military action should be carefully calibrated to avoid another prolonged military conflict.

While military action may be needed and necessary in Syria, it is uncertain whether international law in its present state truly authorizes countries to engage in unilateral military action against Assad’s regime.  If the United States, Great Britain and France decide to launch a military offensive, their actions may constitute the first instance of humanitarian intervention and may lead toward the development of new customary norms of international law.

Upcoming Conferences: Maritime Piracy

On September 6, 2013, an international conference entitled “End Game! An International Conference on Combating Piracy” will take place at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.  The conference description reads as follows:

For the moment pirate attacks are down, but piracy continues to present a major threat to world shipping. Even with greatly expanded patrolling by international navies and increased use of private security forces, there have been 48 pirate attacks, 448 seamen were held hostage by pirates, and global economic losses due to piracy topped 5 billion dollars in the last twelve months. Meanwhile, renewed political turmoil in Somalia and Yemen is sowing the seeds for a fresh generation of pirates with increasingly deadly tactics. This conference brings together two-dozen of the world’s foremost counter-piracy experts to analyze the novel legal challenges and options related to this new phase in the fight against piracy.

This exciting conference will feature panels on current trends in combating piracy, the treatment of juvenile pirates, new ideas on combating financing piracy, as well as legal and operational issues in combating piracy.  The conference will reunite some of the most prominent experts from the field of maritime law, including law professors, prosecutors and judges from piracy-prosecuting nations, such as Kenya and Mauritius, NGO representatives, government officials, and international organizations members.  The key note lecture will be delivered by Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire, founder of the Child Soldier Initiative at Dalhousie University and a prominent author and advocate.  Last but not least, Intlawgrrls participating at the conference include Laurie Blank and yours truly

The conference is open to the public (seating is limited and registration is required), and it will also be available via webcast. 


Best and Worst Places for Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean

Women selling in market (IITA Image Library)

Women selling in market
(IITA Image Library)

The Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (IDB/MIF) has issued a study which ranks Latin American and Caribbean countries based on risks to and support for women entrepreneurs. Highlights of the study presented in this slideshow rank the countries from first to twentieth place in this slideshow.

Jamaica, my country of origin, was ranked 20th. To persons who are familiar with the prevalence of women in all areas of Jamaican business and society, this low ranking will seem surprising. Women, for example, comprise 70% of the country’s university students and 50% of its workforce; they occupy management positions at various levels of society, including a female Prime Minister who is serving for the second time.

So, if visibility of women is not enough to secure top ranking, what are the other factors that the study authors considered? I have divided them into three categories:

Category 1: Societal Conditions

  • Overall strength of the economy, as measured by fiscal conditions, level of investor confidence,
  • Political factors, such as degree of political and institutional stability and the presence of good governance
  • Degree of corruption

Category 2: Support for Micro & Small Entrepreneurs

The majority of women entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean (indeed developing and emerging countries as a whole) operate micro and small to medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and so the availability of the following factors can play a huge role in determining success:

  • Ability of MSMEs to access credit
  • Access to technology and to technical support by MSMEs
  • Favorability of tax rates for MSMEs
  • Legal structure supporting MSMEs
  • Costs of starting and expanding a business

Category 3: Support for Women in Business

The following factors can speak volumes about the level of support that exists for women entrepreneurs:

  • Extent of access to business associations and enterprises
  • Levels of female enrolment in vocational programs
  • Extent of crime and security risks
  • Extension of property rights to women
  • Access to and/or level of spending on social services, i.e. child support and for taking care of the elderly

While a country need not have all of these factors in place to be ranked highly as a good place for women entrepreneurs, it must be able to provide evidence of societal support across all three categories. This was clearly evident in Chile, which ranked #1 for the following reasons: (1) good fiscal conditions, political and institutional stability, strong investor confidence, and perceptions of good governance; (2)  high access to technology; and (3) good security conditions and adequate access to social services.

IntLawGrrls at SEALS

sealslogo2The increasingly popular Southeastern Association of Law Schools annual conference is underway in beautiful Palm Beach, FL this week. Though not a conference focused on international law, there are a few panels with international topics, as well as several IntLawGrrls presenting. One of the great things about this conference is the focus on diversity in participants; because there are so many women listed in the program, we’re highlighting only those on panels focusing on international law and IntLawGrrls contributors. If we’ve missed anyone, please let one of us know!

Sunday, Aug. 4:


Naomi Cahn

“Discussion Group: Children’s Issues” – Naomi Cahn (The George Washington University Law School) (photo credit)

“Arbitration of Internal Trust Disputes: Bold New Frontier or Disaster in the Making?” – Stacie I. Strong (University of Missouri School of Law) (photo credit)

Stacie I. Strong

Stacie I. Strong

“The Intersection of Reproductive Rights and Class” – Naomi Cahn (The George Washington University Law School)

“Experiential Legal Education: Assessing the Present and Imagining the Future” – Johanna Bond (Washington and Lee University School of Law) (photo credit)

Johanna Bond

Johanna Bond

Monday, Aug. 7:

“Experiential Legal Education: Imagining the Future and Integrated Education” – Johanna Bond (Washington and Lee University School of Law) (photo credit)

Tuesday, Aug. 6:

“The Rise and Fall of the Wagner Model: An International and Comparative Perspective” – Charlotte Garden (Seattle University School of Law) (photo credit), Orly Lobel (San Diego University School of Law) (photo credit)

Orly Lobel

Orly Lobel

Charlotte Garden

Charlotte Garden

Wednesday, Aug. 7:

“New Scholars Colloquia: Justice/International” – Rachel VanLandingham (Stetson University College of Law) (photo credit)

Rachel VanLandingham

Rachel VanLandingham

Thursday, Aug. 8:

“New Scholars Colloquia: Constitutional Law: Federal Courts” – Yvonne Dutton (Indiana University, Robert H. McKinney School of Law) (photo credit)

Yvonne Dutton

Yvonne Dutton

Friday, Aug. 9:

“Building New Democracies: Lessons from the Third Wave for the Arab Spring” – Rachel Rebouché (University of Florida Levin College of Law) (photo credit)

Rachel Rebouche

Rachel Rebouche

“New Scholars Colloquia: Insurance/Business Associations” – Elizabeth Ludwin King (Wake Forest University School of Law) (photo credit)Elizabeth Ludwin King

“The Law and Politics of International Prosecutions” – Elizabeth Ludwin King (Wake Forest University School of Law) (photo credit), Milena Sterio (Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law) (photo credit), Margaret Spicer (Florida State University College of Law)

Margaret Spicer

Margaret Spicer

Milena Sterio

Milena Sterio

Sexism in Academia

The New York Times ran an article addressing a case of sexual harassment involving a well-respected professor of philosophy who was forced to resign.  The article goes on to discuss a general problem regarding marginalization of women within philosophy in terms of citation, presentations in conferences, and academic assessment.  This provides food for thought within law studies as well.  Here is an excerpt:

“In 2011, the blog Feminist Philosophers began the Gendered Conference Campaign, a project that tracks all-male conference lineups. (One recent example: “Being a Human Being, Being a Person,” held last month at the University of Oxford.)

In July, after the sociologist Kieran Healy published a study showing that women made up less than 4 percent of top citations in leading philosophy journals since 1992, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy sent out an e-mail asking contributors to make sure that entries do not cite work by white men on a given topic while ignoring prior contributions by women and other underrepresented groups.

Such “citation blindness,” scholars say, may be less a result of overt discrimination than of implicit bias, a phenomenon that has generated a rich literature in psychology, but that philosophers are only beginning to study.”

The full article is available here:



Earlier today Anne Orford of the University of Melbourne Law School, JHH Weiler of
the NYU School of Law, and Dino Kritsiotis of the University of Nottingham School of
Law launched the Third Annual Junior Faculty Forum for International Law. The Forum
is designed to assist junior faculty, i.e. those within the first six years of their
academic careers, with their research by staging an annual competition in which six
to nine individuals will be selected and asked to make presentations to the Forum in
a given year: these presentations will then be paired with senior international
legal scholars, who will comment on each of the presentations given to the Forum, so
that the papers are eventually worked up and prepared for publication in the
European Journal of International Law.

The third Forum will be convened at the University of Melbourne on July 7, 8 and 9,
2014. The deadline for submission of applications is December 1, 2013. Further
particulars of the process are now available on

Cultural Disconnect in Trade Negotiations

The June, 2013 G-8 Summit began with the announcement of the launch of negotiations between the United States and the European Union to conclude a Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, or TTIP. The first round of negotiations concluded in Washington, D.C. on July 12, 2013.

At first glance it seems a very obvious thing to do. Already, trade between these two transatlantic giants accounts for about half of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and nearly one-third of world trade flows.  Furthermore, as the biggest proponents of trade liberalization and open economies, EU and U.S. goods already enjoy very low tariffs upon entering each other’s markets. In other words, there is already a lot of trade happening between these two.

But, wait a minute! Why then is a trade agreement being negotiated?

Most of the benefit from a concluded TTIP is expected to come from removing or reducing regulatory barriers to trade – called non-tariff barriers or NTBs. Given the amount of trade already happening, the different regulations and standards on either side of the Atlantic Ocean create increased costs for businesses. Companies doing business in Europe and the United States face two or more sets of product approval processes, consumer safety standards, and inspection requirements. One anticipated outcome of the TTIP negotiations, then, are common standards or mutual recognition of each other’s regulatory requirements. Companies doing business on both sides of the Atlantic would then need to comply with only one set of standards and requirements.

US flag (courtesy of wikipedia)

US flag (courtesy of wikipedia)

At the same time, there is wide acknowledgement that this is not going to be as simple as it sounds. Arguably, there are some key areas in which regulations and standards differ for cultural reasons which may be difficult to overcome.

Food Standards: While genetically-modified or genetically-engineered foods (GMOs for short) are very much a part of the US agricultural and food landscape, European citizens have resisted the introduction of

EU flag (courtesy of wikipedia)

EU flag (courtesy of wikipedia)

“frankenfoods” into their food supply. The US sees the negotiations as an opportunity to revisit this issue. However, the European Commission —  the EU’s executive arm and negotiating party in these talks, has said that:

Basic laws, like those relating to GMOs or which are there to protect human life and health, animal health and welfare, or environment and consumer interests will not be part of the negotiations.

Buy American Act provisions: Legislation passed in 1913 restricts the purchase of non-US goods and services by the US Government. Need I say more?

Privacy: EU laws place a much higher value on protecting the privacy of European citizens. This interesting article by NBC news explains. This difference helps to explain why the negotiations almost broke down before they could even get started over revelations of the National Security Agency (NSA) spying activities. “US must justify why they treat us like enemies” said Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, in a Facebook interview.

 Copyright & Culture: The European Parliament is the EU’s directly-elected legislative body. It has issued its position paper on the US-EU negotiations, which included the request that cultural and audiovisual services be excluded from the negotiations.

Citizen Concerns: On both sides of the Atlantic, citizens have expressed concerns that “common standards” could actually mean a dilution of the national standards for which they have fought so hard.

Some of this disconnect even extends to the name. What the U.S. has dubbed the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership or TTIP, Europeans have preferred to call the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, or TAFTA.

These differences in cultural values help to explain why trade negotiations are so difficult. They are about more than reducing tariffs. As negotiators discuss the dry issues of regulations and standards they bring to the table cultural perspectives that they will have to work hard to first understand, then resolve.

Happy 40th Birthday, CARICOM

As we celebrate the 238th anniversary of U.S. Declaration of Independence, I also pause to acknowledge the 40th birthday of the Caribbean Community or CARICOM. Created on July 4th 1973, CARICOM is a regional organization created to achieve economic integration and to promote cooperation among its fifteen (15) Caribbean member states. Its members are Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Forty years later a question being posed is what has CARICOM achieved? Is CARICOM a success or a failure? As one would expect with such a complex undertaking, the answer is “yes”.

In honor of this 40th birthday, while acknowledging the numerous challenges that remain, we highlight key accomplishments of the Caribbean regional integration effort under CARICOM.

Institutional Continuity

CARICOM HQ building in Guyana (

CARICOM HQ building in Guyana (

CARICOM remains a functional organization which has expanded beyond its original English-speaking members to encompass Dutch-speaking Suriname and French-speaking Haiti. This year, for the first time, Haiti assumed the rotating position as Chair of CARICOM. Fittingly, President Martelli assumed the position on January 1, the 209th anniversary of Haiti’s independence. The five UK territories– Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands – are associate members. Several other countries, including the Dominican Republic, hold observer status.

Functional Cooperation in Culture, Education, Health

CARIFESTA, the Caribbean-wide Festival of Arts remains alive and well as an expression of the region’s rich and varied cultures. CARIFESTA XI is being held in Paramaribo, Suriname, August 16-25, 2013.

Twenty-eight regional bodies are CARICOM-designated institutions or associate institutions that serve to pool the resources of these small Caribbean states in delivering education, health and other social services to the region. The University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Council of Legal Education operate several campuses to provide tertiary education across the region. There is also the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) (formerly CDERA); Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Caribbean Community Climate Change CentreCaribbean Telecommunications UnionCaribbean Public Health Agency, and Caribbean Regional Information and Translation Institute (CRITI), to name a few.

Economic Integration

The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, signed in 2001, refocused the goal of economic integration around creating the CARICOM Single Market & Economy (CSME). For the twelve signatories to the CSME, the goal is to create a regional market for trade in goods and services and the movement of labor and capital. Currently, Caribbean-made products are entitled to duty-free entry into all CSME members and policies to support free movement of specified categories of service providers are being implemented. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was created by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, with original and exclusive jurisdiction for interpreting the treaty. In this regard, the Court is already functioning and has issued several opinions.

The CCJ is also to replace one of the remaining vestiges of colonialism by serving as final court of appeal for the former English colonies replacing the colonial-era UK Privy Council. As we noted in an earlier post, this aspect of its functions has been stymied by the British-drafted Constitutions that remain in many of the countries.

Like other components of the CARICOM Community, this is a work in progress, that does not negate the progress already made.

Happy Birthday, CARICOM!

(Courtesy, Wikipedia Commons)

(Courtesy, Wikipedia Commons)

Time to rethink the women, peace and security agenda?

On June 24th 2013 the Security Council, under the Presidency of the United Kingdom, issued its sixth Agota Sjostromresolution on women, peace and security, Resolution 2106. Although under the rubric of women, peace and security, the new resolution focuses on measures to prevent and deter sexual violence in armed conflict. In continuing the focus on sexual violence the resolution takes us full circle from the first resolution on women, peace and security, Resolution 1325, which incorporated the Council’s response to sexual violence within armed conflict as an element of a broader approach. The new resolution, in contrast, places sexual violence as the primary concern and then incorporates additional issues relating to women, peace and security only as elements of responding to combating sexual violence– including HIV, sexual and reproductive health, women’s participation, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes.

While deploring the violence and suffering men and women experience as victims of conflict, including sexual violence, I wish to challenge the disproportionate attention to sexual violence as the epitome of women’s experiences of armed conflict. The failure of this approach to see or hear women as actors across the spectrum of conflict experiences reinforces women as represented through victimhood, vulnerability and childhood. Although Resolution 2106 acknowledges men and women as victims of sexual violence in armed conflict (in paragraph 6 of the preamble) the operative paragraphs fall back into the use of ‘women and children’ terminology risking not only the erasure of the experiences of male survivors but also re-asserting an equivalence between women and children in conflict situations that is ultimately harmful to women. Continue reading