AALS Field Trip to the United Nations: a report

By Anne E. Burnett

The International Law Section of the Association of American Law Schools offered the first-ever AALS Field Trip to the United Nations during last week’s AALS meeting in Manhattan. Claudio Grossman (Chair, United Nations Committee against Torture and Dean of the American University Washington College of Law) and Mark Wojcik (Professor, John Marshall Law School—Chicago) organized the January 7th event, which included a briefing, lunch, a tour of the UN buildings, and time to visit the U.N. bookstore and gift shop.

About 35 international law professors, visiting scholars and librarians started the day with a trek from the conference headquarters near Times Square to the UN building on a cold but sunny morning.  After clearing security, we assembled in a meeting room (where I ogled the committee meeting agenda left on the door – hey, I’ve helped our researchers locate those agendas!) for a briefing by an excellent panel discussing the general topic of “The Future of the United Nations in the 21st“ with a more specific focus on human rights issues.

The briefing, ably moderated by Mark Wojcik, included the following panelists and topics:

  • Claudio Grossman, Chair, United Nations Committee against Torture and Dean of the American University Washington College of Law
    Topic: “The Human Rights Treaty Bodies of the United Nations – Challenges for the Future”
  • Ben Majekodunmi, Senior Human Rights Officer, Political, Peace-keeping, Humanitarian and Human Rights Unit, Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General
    Topic: I do not have the specific title for this portion as he was not on the agenda but his very interesting comments were mostly about obstacles to the UN responding to serious human rights violations
  • Katarina Mansson, Capacity Building & Harmonization Section, Human Rights Treaties Division, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
    Topic: “Partnering for Peace and Rights: The Evolving Relationship Between the United Nations and Regional Organizations”
  • Craig Mokhiber, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
    Topic: “Development and the Post-2015 Development Agenda”
  • Richard Bennet, Representative and Head of UN Office, Amnesty International.
    Topic: “Amnesty International’s Efforts”
  • Joanna Weschler, Deputy Executive Director & Director of Research, Security Council Report
    Topic: “The Security Council Report” – see http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/  to access this resource which provides information about the activities of the Security Council and its subsidiaries.

During the luncheon, we enjoyed an interesting keynote by His Excellency Cristian Barros, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations, speaking on “Chile’s Participation at Security Council (2014-2015).” He discussed the practicalities of working on the Security Council as the representative of a non-permanent member.

The afternoon tour included visiting the General Assembly Hall, the Security Council Chamber, the Trusteeship Council Chamber, and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber.  Each grand room has been donated by a member country, along with symbolic furnishings and art. We also toured exhibits on human rights, disarmament, and the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Varied massive pieces of art donated by member countries provided sobering yet optimistic backdrops throughout the tour. (Note: our tour did not include either the Secretariat Building or the Dag Hammarskjöld Library  – something to explore next time.)

The tour ended with stops at the United Nations Bookshop and the gift store.

Woven throughout the field trip, from the briefing to the luncheon to the exhibits and the bookshop, were references to the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which provides a plan of action for the United Nations through 2030. The international library community advocated strongly, and successfully, for the inclusion within the development agenda of access to information, which is referenced under several of the 17 Development Goals. If you’d like to know how this could impact your work, check out the efforts of groups such as the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), which continue to provide support for advocacy efforts to include access to information in national development plans.


Martinique’s Grand Library and “Josephine Beheaded”


By: Julienne Grant

Happy New Year! I spent part of my holiday break cruising around the eastern part of the Caribbean.  Starting in San Juan, we stopped at five ports of call—Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Martinique, and Saint Thomas.  I’m in the process of writing an article on the legal systems of these islands, so I won’t dive into that material so much here. What I will do, however, is share a little about one of the more unusual public libraries I have seen—the Schœlcher library in Martinique. (Keep in mind as you read this, that I’m currently living in a city with a public library that has sculptures of green owls perched on top of it.)

Martinique is a French overseas department and territory (département et territoire d’outre-mer) and has a population of somewhere around 386,000.  Its capital, Fort-de-France, is a captivating seaside community that has a European vibe, with a Caribbean beat.  Although the French flag flies here, and the euro is king, it is the sounds of Creole and reggae that flood the city streets.

On the rue de la Liberté, across the road from a decapitated statue of Empress Josephine (more on this below), sits Fort-de-France’s crown jewel, its public library.  The building itself is an elaborate and exotic structure with a Byzantine-style cupola.  Designed by French architect Pierre-Henri Picq in 1884, the building was first erected in Paris, and then dismantled and shipped for re-assembly in Martinique. That this glorious building still stands is a testimony to the genius of its designer, as the island is prone to earthquakes and hurricanes.

The library itself is named after French abolitionist Victor Schœlcher, who drafted the 1848 decree that abolished slavery in the French colonies. Schœlcher donated his own private library in 1883 to the General Council of Martinique for the purpose of creating a public library.  One of the library’s mandates is to preserve heritage materials related to the island.

Being duly impressed with the exterior of the building, I decided to check out the interior space.   Although my French is poor, the reference librarian on duty spoke wonderful English and was kind enough to provide an impromptu tour of the place.

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Although the interior is showing signs of wear (including a few cracks resulting from earthquakes), it is still quite grand. The domed ceiling is exquisite, and there is a striking portrait of Victor Schœlcher hanging in the atrium. The collection is impressive and covers everything from literature to law, including the most current Dalloz French codes. (As an overseas region of France, French national law applies in Martinique, but can be modified to address situations specific to the island.) What really impressed me, however, was how busy the library was.  This is not simply a relic from an earlier time; it’s a working and modern library that is being heavily used.

Finally, a word about the decapitated statue of Empress Josephine across the street. Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon I’s first wife, was born and raised in Martinique.  Although she may be the island’s most famous citizen, she is also probably the most despised.  Her family owned slaves, and she was purportedly instrumental in convincing Napoleon to reinstate slavery in the French colonies in 1802.  The marble statue was mysteriously beheaded in 1991 and was later splattered with red paint around Josephine’s delicate neckline.  The gory headless statue still stands, overlooking the lovely La Savane park. For an interesting read on the statue, see the Prologue (“Josephine Beheaded”) to Cultural Conundrums: Gender, Race, Nation, and the Making of Caribbean Cultural Politics (University of Michigan Press, 2006).

Introducing…Marci Hoffman as the January 2016 FCIL Librarian of the Month

1. HoffmanWhere did you grow up?

I was born in Littleton, Colorado (outside of Denver) but we moved to Southern California when I was a kid. So I really grew up in the San Fernando Valley before there were any “valley girls.”

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

When I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, I went to work as a legal assistant in a law firm.  So glad I did — I thought that the work lawyers did was dull but legal research was fun!  Then I met the librarian at Lucas Films and I wanted her job (but she said I’d have to wait until she died).  In the end, my firm offered me a job when I got out of library school. A girl’s gotta eat!

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

I always loved international relations, government and political science and FCIL work gave me an opportunity to utilize my interest and knowledge.  When I started at Berkeley Law (then called Boalt) in 1991, I learned a lot by watching what Tom Reynold did (Tom wasn’t big on sharing in those days). I followed him around the stacks, peered over his shoulder and took lots of notes.  I was then lucky to get my first FCIL job at the University of Minnesota Law Library and I learned by doing the work.  FCIL programs, trainings, and helpful colleagues helped fill in the gaps.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?

Berkeley Law employs me currently and I’ve been back for about 12.5 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I hesitate to say “speak” since I’m too insecure.  I can read German and Spanish.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Getting to work each day!  Okay, I’d say working with David Weissbrodt on the Minnesota Human Rights Library, one of the first collections of international human rights instruments on the web. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work on several other projects.  I love working with Mary Rumsey and we wrote the IFLR Coursebook together.  She always makes me look (and sound) better.  I’m also really lucky to be able to work on the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals and the Foreign Law Guide with the help of many wonderful colleagues.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Wine – all kinds!  Oh, is wine a food?

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

Creativity and artistic ability – paint, draw, whatever. My stick figure drawings leave much to be desired.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you not go a day without?

Coffee – double latte with non-fat milk.  I would say wine but I don’t want to give the wrong impression.  One other thing, my husband.  Sounds corny but he gets me through each and every day (he cooks all of our meals).  Sorry, that’s more than one thing.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

Although I am now an associate director with many other responsibilities, I still do most of the FCIL work here at Berkeley Law.  It’s the best part of my job.

Nominations Sought for FCIL-SIS Vice Chair/Chair Elect

Hav2015 Nominations sought for vice chair chair electe big ideas for the future of the FCIL-SIS? Want to see that vision realized?

The FCIL-SIS is seeking nominations for a Vice-Chair/Chair Elect. Nominations of yourself or a similarly visionary colleague (with the consent of the nominated) will be happily received by Dan Donahue, Gabriela Femenia, and George Tsiakos through Monday, December 15, 2015.

For complete details, please see the call for nominees.


Introducing…Catherine Deane as the December 2015 FCIL Librarian of the Month



Deane - December2

Catherine Deane and her grandmother, Elsie Deane, on the family estate in Toco, Trinidad

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Trinidad. That’s the larger island of the twin island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. My childhood was idyllic. I lived in the suburbs of the main city, Port-of-Spain, but it was a new development and my house was and still is surrounded by jungle on 3 sides with a creek nearby where I would collect tadpoles and keep them in my Mother’s cake pan in my room (sorry Mum) and feed them tiny pieces of meat, watching them grow into little frogs. My family went on bi-monthly trips to the countryside where my grandfather owned a lot of land that had been a coffee and cocoa estate, but he and my father planted ground provision, cedar and mahogany trees and tropical fruit trees, including pommerac trees and all manner of mango trees. So we all ate a lot of blue food, and fruit, sometimes as many as 20 mangoes or oranges in a day!

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

I didn’t, I specifically went to library school to be a FCIL librarian, not just a law librarian.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

In law school, I had studied foreign and international law, studying abroad in Dublin, London and Belgium. I did a joint degree in law and anthropology and graduated with two advanced degrees in three years by going to school all year round (including Summers). My closest law school friend, became a law librarian and she encouraged me to go to library school and to pursue the path toward being a FCIL librarian by sending me an article about FCIL librarianship written by Mary Rumsey. I was very lucky to have Vince Moyer, the FCIL librarian from UC Hastings as my mentor. I interned under him throughout library school and I couldn’t have been happier. Although my first job title was reference librarian, since I was the only full-time reference librarian, I got all of the FCIL questions as well as U.S. law questions.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?

I’ve worked at Vanderbilt University for the last three years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I’ve been code switching from standard English to Trinidadian English since childhood because my mother was a schoolteacher who insisted that we learn standard English, but my grandparents spoke Trinidadian English and it would have been pretentious to respond to them in standard English, even though they understood it just fine. I can have a pretty good conversation in Spanish, and I can read basic French and Portuguese. This year, I started learning some German but I’m certainly not at a conversational level, although I can ask for a beer (priorities).

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I think the body of writing that I have done for RIPS Blog, AALL Spectrum Blog and most recently for the MAALL newsletter is my most significant professional achievement. I am trying to change the culture of our profession. As a group we tend to me more focused on instruction than on the physical space of the library. In particular, I think we can do a better job of fostering a climate for diversity within the library. I’d like us to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Students have been protesting on campuses across the nation about the racial climate on university campuses, as stewards of a space (the library) I think we can do more to ensure that all of our students feel welcome and included. Additionally, as a profession we could do more to support minority law librarians (including invisible minorities and LGBTQI librarians). The more we unveil and get rid of unnecessary policies that have a disparate impact, the more free everyone will be and the more we will enjoy our professional lives.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Whoa, this is a difficult category, I’m tempted to just put sugar and salt. I especially love Trinidadian food, not just because it reminds me of my childhood, but also because it is seasoned to perfection. But I also regularly fall for fresh Thai basil rolls which are not complete without a Thai tea as well. And I routinely raid Mary Miles Prince’s bowl of chocolate, she is so sweet, she gets the heath bars because she knows I love them and she gets them in the mini size because she knows I have to pretend that I’m only going to eat a tiny bit (at a time).

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

I must sound like a stuck record by now, but I love Trinidadian music, Soca, Calypso and Chutney Soca, seems like every year they come out with great new songs. But I also find it really hard not to dance when the Gorillaz Clint Eastwood plays or when my favorite DJs are spinning (Edmundo, DJ Diagnosis, Airpusher Collective).

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

MMA Fighting.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you not go a day without?

Nothing. I live life very minimally. I don’t really have furniture or much in the way of household decorations. I’m a functionalist, so I guess the thing that I really enjoy having the most is WhatsApp because I left home when I was 18 and my youngest brother was 6. Since he and my parents still live in Trinidad, I am really grateful that current technology allows me to stay in close contact with them for free. It used to be that they would have to try to catch me in my dorm room and they would call me from Trinidad using this thing called a YakJack to reduce the cost of international calls. Now, I can text my brother or my Dad from my cel phone using WhatsApp and I can Skype my Mum from my iPad. So that’s pretty awesome.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

I’m really grateful for all my FCIL colleagues, you guys are so smart and generous with your time and expertise. Many thanks for all you have taught me either directly or through your shared materials, articles and books. Please keep writing and feel free to contact me if I can help you or support you in any way.

CAFLL-WestPac Recap: Legal Research Instruction In China and Innovative Library Space Solutions

By Ning Han

The joint conference of Chinese and American Forum on Legal Information and Law Libraries (CAFLL) and AALL WestPac was held in Honolulu, Hawaii, October 7-11, 2015. The conference was a huge success and offered opportunities for law librarians from both countries to network, exchange ideas, and learn from each other. This blog post recaps a panel discussion that focused on legal research instruction in China and innovative library space solutions supporting legal education. The panel was moderated by Anne Mostad-Jensen, Head of Faculty Services at University of North Dakota School of Law.

Lee Peoples, Director and Professor of Law at Oklahoma City University Law Library, who has published extensively on innovative library space solutions, introduced the audience to the concept of user-centric library space design. The traditional notion of what an academic law library should look like has been disrupted by a combination of factors in recent years. Designing law libraries to encourage learning is the new focus. The variety of ways students use space and their learning styles should be accommodated. Professor Lee showcased the implementation of this new design notion through examples of several recently constructed or renovated academic law libraries. Data diner booths, bar-height tables, and collaborative spaces with built-in trendy technologies are no longer novel. The offering of outdoor studying space, either courtyard or roof-top, is quietly happening as well. Professor Peoples indicated that a nicely designed library space helps with admission and attracts donations. He even mentioned that many law schools have already converted the so-called “prime” space from law professor offices to student learning space. The mindset of space use and how to promote admissions, marketing, and publicity through transforming space has radically changed. Law librarians from China showed strong interest in this discussion.

Ning Han, Technical Services Librarian and Assistant Professor of Law at Concordia University School of Law and Liying Yu, Director and Professor of Law at Tsinghua University School of Law delivered the findings of their recently conducted survey. The survey aimed to find out what the current practices of legal research instruction in China are and compare them to the American legal research education practices. This new survey was derived from a 2008 survey conducted by Professor Liying Yu, which confirmed the dearth of legal research course offerings at that time. Twenty-five law schools were surveyed this time and the survey found a steady improvement of legal research course offerings in law schools in China since the last survey. The offerings of basic legal research course have gone up to 73%. ALR and SLR courses were found to be more available than in 2008. 38% of law schools surveyed are offering some sort of ALR or SLR courses. The format of the course, credit structure, teaching method, assessment method, and more were studied and compared to the U.S. approaches. Professors Han and Yu also touched on students’ and legal employers’ perception toward legal research courses and legal research skills. They also examined whether there is any feedback or regulatory system in place among legal educators, legal employers, the bar association, and Ministry of Education. A more detailed analysis of the survey will appear in the paper that Professors Han, Yu, and Mostad-Jensen are currently finishing.

CAFLL-WestPac Recap: BIT by BIT: Researching Chinese Bilateral Investment Treaties

By: Barbara Swatt Engstrom

China Africa News


Seattle University Law Professor Won Kidane is originally from Ethiopia and has a strong background in China-Africa investment relations.  In 2012, he published China-Africa Dispute Settlement: The Law, Culture and Economics of Arbitration, which evaluated existing mechanisms of dispute resolution in China-Africa economic relations.  In subsequent years, he focused on a particular institution for international investment dispute resolution: the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).  In particular, he explored whether ICSID is an appropriate forum to handle the investment disputes stemming from an enormous increase in investment in Africa by China.  In analyzing the ICSID legitimacy debate, he created a framework to assess the suitability of ICSID arbitration for China–Africa investment dispute arbitration.  The outcome of this research project was his article: The China-Africa Factor in the Contemporary ICSID Legitimacy Debate.

As he was working on the project, Professor Kidane decided to delve more deeply into the bilateral treaties that provide the basis for the investment regime he was questioning.  He asked me to research and analyze all bilateral investment treaties (BITs) between China and African countries.

Background on Chinese BITs:

In order to do the analysis part of the project, I needed to get myself up to speed with BITs, generally, and Chinese BITs, in particular.  While BITs vary depending on the negotiating partners, countries use model BITs as starting points.  Historically, there are three generations of Chinese model BITs.  China’s first generation BITs (starting with its BIT with Sweden in 1982) are generally considered to be conservative.  They accord Most Favored Nation (MFN) status but not National Treatment (NT).  The availability of compensation for expropriation was recognized, but the legality of the expropriation was determined by local courts.  China’s second generation of BITs followed China’s accession to the ICSID convention in 1990.  In some of these BITs, the availability of investor access to ICSID arbitration was included but was often limited to the determination of the amount of compensation for expropriation.  The third and current model made both substantive and procedural changes. One of the most important substantive changes was the addition of National Treatment protection. The most important procedural change was unqualified access to international arbitration, including ICSID arbitration.

Research Strategies:

Once I had a very general understanding of Chinese BITs, I was able to much more effectively research and analyze the China Africa BITs for this project.  My main tips for researching BITs are as follows:

1) Start with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) International Investment Agreements Navigator.  This database will give you a fairly comprehensive idea of what is generally available.  It has information on signatory and ratification dates and provides many full text treaties.

2) Use Target Countries’ International Trade Ministries. The English language page of China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has a database of Chinese BITs.  They had the full text of several BITs that were not available via the International Investment Agreements Navigator.

3) Use Print Materials for Older BITs. One of the very best English books for any project involving Chinese BITs is Gallagher and Shan’s Chinese Investment Treaties.  In addition to having great analysis, there are reprints of several BITs in the Appendix.  This was the only place to find the Seychelles –China BIT.  Another very useful print resource, especially for older BITs, is the looseleaf set: Investment, Promotion and Protection Treaties.  This is where I found the China-Mali BIT. Research guides can also be very helpful in pointing you to print sources, as can running searches in the Google Books database.

4) Advanced & Deep Web Searching. Searching Google for BITs can often lead to frustration for a couple of reasons: 1) A basic Google search only crawls the very top layers of websites.  It won’t find anything buried.  The solution is to go directly to the target website and use their search tool to go deeper. 2) BIT is a generic term.  Although the titles vary, BITs generally have the terms “promotion and protection of investments” in them somewhere. It will help if you have model treaty language that you can track.  I also like to use the site search in Google. The advance Google search: Tanzania promotion protection investment site:mofcom.gov.cn brought up the Tanzania-China BIT which was not available in the MOFCOM Bilateral Investment Treaty database.

5) Contact Experts. While attending the ASIL conference in Washington, D.C., I stopped by the Law Library of Congress and met with several of their country specialists.  One of the China specialists found the China-Sierra Leone BIT tucked away in the AsianLII database – a place it had not occurred to me to look.

Additional Resources: