ASIL-ILA 2014 Wrap-Up

by Kristina Alayan

10168143_10101375365777866_2769768667846167479_nFor the first time since both the American Society of International Law (ASIL) and the International Law Association (ILA) were founded, the two organizations came together for an ambitious joint conference. The successful event took place April 7 – 12, 2014 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. Scholars, practitioners, judges, and students from around the world came to enjoy the outstanding programs and networking opportunities. Moreover, the timing of the conference coincided with the blooming of the famous DC cherry blossoms, which were out in full force. Conference participants who stayed through Saturday (and who were willing to brave the crowds) also enjoyed the Cherry Blossom Parade on Saturday, April 12 – the final weekend of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Speakers ranged from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to Radhika Coomaraswamy, former UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict on Violence against Women. Judges from the International Court of Justice were in attendance both as honorees and as panelists along with numerous distinguished and accomplished scholars and practitioners. For those who were unable to attend the conference or a particular panel, the program is available for download on the ASIL website. In addition, ASIL Cables continued to provide commentary on the programs and events that took place over the course of the conference. Volunteers ably reported on the 55 panels and ensured comprehensive coverage of the events in an effort to disseminate the content to a wider audience.

10151851_10101375380193976_2748864400896446422_nThe programming at the conference focused on various aspects of the effectiveness of international law. Though the theme was broad, the programs often focused on more discrete issues, ranging from the anticipated ramifications of the recent Kiobel decision to whether forced feeding in response to hunger strikes is a violation of the Prohibition of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. Lively discussions took place among panelists, and participation from the engaged attendees served to further these conversations during the Q&A sessions and often long after the programs had concluded.

The International Legal Research Interest Group (ILRIG) has continued to build upon the leadership of its founders with a current roster of dedicated and inspired law librarians from across the country. It’s hard to believe that the group was only recently founded in 2010. In a short amount of time, the group’s biannual newsletter, the International Legal Research Informer, has already been formally recognized by ASIL as a newsletter to follow, and the International Research Kiosk staffed by ILRIG volunteers continues to be a popular resource for attendees. For the second year, ILRIG has sponsored a successful and well attended program, which was described in an earlier DipLawMatic Dialogues post by Joan Policastri. One of the most recent developments spearheaded by the ILRIG leadership is an initiative to recognize important contributions in the area of providing and enhancing legal information resources in international law. This initiative is still in the developmental stages, but ILRIG members are looking forward to hearing more about the award. The current name under consideration is the Jus Gentium Research Award, though ILRIG members are welcome to offer additional suggestions. The hope is to be able to honor a recipient in time for the meeting next year. The ASIL conference is a unique opportunity to catch up with colleagues and welcome new attendees while enjoying stellar programming that addresses current (and often controversial) issues in international law. Time permitting, attendees can also enjoy some of the amazing sights found only in Washington, DC. We hope to see you at ASIL next year!

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Consolidated Treaty Series Being Digitized by Oxford University Press

by Marylin Raisch

Here at ASIL, the most fun is chatting with editors and vendors about worthwhile projects, and not merely prices and products, on a more, shall we say, customer service basis. On Tuesday I spoke with John Louth, Editor in Chief of Academic Law at Oxford University Press, and he expects that by September 2014 the Clive Parry Consolidated Treaty Series, an essential source in international law as well as legal and world history, will be available electronically through OUP. While it will not yet be searchable through all of the the scanned texts, metadata will exist in the first stage of the process which will make it possible for researchers to access the texts.

At last! Electronic access to this collection of treaties from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 through 1919 will make many smaller collections more complete and scholarly in content. For more information, contact OUP directly.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words…

by Joan Policastri

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

This could be a summary of the program offered Wednesday afternoon at ASIL-ILA, entitled Connecting the Dots: Visualizing International Law.  Moderated by our own Marylin Raisch, this program demonstrated three ways of taking “Big Data” raw numbers and using visual representations to simplify their presentation and make them more accessible, with the aim of improving teaching, communication, and problem-solving in the transnational legal context.

The three items demonstrated were the Rule of Law Index website from the World Justice Project, which assigns numerical scores to each country purporting to measure how the rule of law is experienced in everyday life around the globe; the Global Health and Human Rights website from the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at the Georgetown University Law Center; and mind mapping as used in teaching complex international law concepts.

The Rule of Law Index presents numerical data, but also allows the user to view a spider graph for each country that combines all of the factors considered in the scoring into a snapshot from which the user can extract specific details. In this way, the site allows the user to look beyond the numerical scores assigned to each country and to view the actual questions and responses that led to the scores. The Global Health and Human Rights website includes a free online database of health and human rights law. The site allows the user to search for case law using an interactive map, as well as to use drop down menus to search for cases by health topic, human rights, region, country, and international or regional body. It also contains direct links to national constitutions, as well as to regional and international instruments.

The presentation on mind mapping was of particular interest to me, since I had previously experienced a course in International Commercial Arbitration that had been taught with the use of mind mapping software. Professor Jeffrey B. Ritter, of the Georgetown University Law Center, explained why this method is so effective. While most law school courses are taught using casebooks and lectures, 70% of us learn best visually. For this reason, a mind map will help us to learn more quickly and easily – up to 60 times more quickly than will texts alone. Professor Ritter shared that in Kaplan’s materials, half of the pages contain maps. When faced with a multiple choice question, most students will pull up a mental image of the relevant map. Maps allow for self-paced learning, improve collaboration, and allow for faster initial analysis. The use of maps can eliminate the need for casebooks and course packs and allow students to learn more effectively.

To summarize, this session not only showed specific uses of visual data representation, but demonstrated that pictures and other visual aids, being a common language across countries and cultures, can allow us to work, teach, and learn more effectively by helping us to cross borders and to overcome language and other communication barriers.

 

All Eyes On ASIL-ILA!

This week brings with it a very special event in the international legal community:  the first ever joint ASIL Annual meeting and ILA Biennial Conference.  The theme of the conference is “The Effectiveness of International Law“:

International law today touches on nearly every aspect of our lives, from the price of practically everything we purchase, to the health of the environment that surrounds us, to our ability to communicate seamlessly worldwide. These encounters serve as daily reminders that, as Louis Henkin famously put it, “almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time.”

Yet at the same time, there are regular reminders that not all nations, groups, or individuals observe all principles of international law or all of their obligations all of the time. International law violations such as human rights abuses, trade law breaches, and law of armed conflict violations remain all too common.

When, how, and why is international law most effective? Are there greater challenges to effectiveness in some areas of international law practice than in others? If so, what are they, and how can they be addressed? What role do domestic and international courts play in enforcing international law and thus enhancing its effectiveness? Does the increasingly intertwined transnational economy offer tools that may be used to enforce international law against states and individuals, or does it instead make international law more vulnerable by making evasion of national authority simpler? Do the challenges facing international law vary in different parts of the world, and, if so, how might those challenges be met? What role do non-state actors—non-governmental organizations and corporations chief among them—play in making international law more or less effective? And what role should they play?

The 2014 joint ASIL Annual Meeting and ILA Biennial Conference will address these questions.

The conference began on Monday, and our correspondents are on the ground and ready to share their experiences!  Keep an eye on the blog for updates, and follow us here on WordPress or via email, Twitter, or Bloglovin’ so that you never miss a post!

Finally, if you’re at ASIL-ILA this week and are feeling a bit overwhelmed, check out this great Survival Guide for Library Conferences from the RIPS Law Librarian Blog!

See you on the other side!