Organizing and Participating in the “Open Access to Legal Knowledge in Africa” Workshop in Uganda

By Heather Casey

uganda2This past December, I had the privilege of traveling to Kampala, Uganda and assisting with a workshop on Open Access to legal knowledge in Africa. It was for law librarians in Anglophone Africa. The workshop was organized through the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), in cooperation with the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL). It was sponsored by IFLA, IALL, and HeinOnline.

I was one of several organizers – with me were Mark Engsberg (Emory University), Joe Hinger (St. John’s University), Caroline Ilako (Markerere University), Sonia Poulin (Alberta Law Libraries), and Bård Tuseth (University of Oslo). Over the course of several months, we worked to bring together a group of African law librarians that came from the following countries: Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and South Africa.

Our goals for the workshop were to empower participants to utilize the potential of open access legal sources in legal research. The workshop offered a method to build a network of law librarians across Africa in order to share knowledge and assist each other in solving practical legal research questions. Participation provided an overview of open access legal sources worldwide, the practical skills required to benefit from them, and an opportunity to establish contact with colleagues from different countries.

uganda1One essential component of the workshop was for every participant to give a presentation. Most were 5 minutes long and organizers spoke from 15 minutes to 45 minutes on various topics with Q&A sessions afterward. Our reasons behind having every participant give a presentation were several; first, it encouraged each participant to plan for the workshop and guaranteed active participation. Second, each participant shared information on the legal research environment in their jurisdiction, which allowed for other participants to learn more about jurisdictions outside their own. It also assisted with networking, as each presentation allowed participants to better acquaint themselves with one another. Getting up in front of their peers gave each participant a chance to exercise skills in public speaking that they may not have otherwise used over the course of the two-day workshop.

We also had three breakout sessions where participants were gathered into small groups to foster discussion. Organizers joined in at each group table to act as facilitators for the small group discussions. After 45 minutes to an hour of discussion, the entire workshop group would come together and people from each group would relay their group’s findings.

As organizers, we wanted to ensure that participants would continue to contribute to a network for African Law Librarians. To that end, we established several online forums after the workshop for participants and organizers to engage in virtual and practical collaboration with international colleagues. The forums included:

So far the email chain and WhatsApp groups have been very vibrant. Participants continue to reach out to one another to discuss resources and let one another know what is happening in their jurisdictions. The website has been good for exchanging slides from the workshop and members have discussed what they would like to further do with the website.

We are excited to see this group continue in its efforts to further the goals of the workshop and look forward to further collaboration with members of the workshop. The experience was unforgettable and one I personally was truly honored and humbled to take part in. It was also very enjoyable to visit Uganda and learn more about the vibrant culture there. I look forward to visiting again.

EISIL Update

The Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL), sponsored by the American Society of International Law (ASIL) experienced outages last week.  Upon request, Don Ford agreed to update the FCIL-SIS on his knowledge of EISIL’s status.

By: Don Ford

EISIL Update: In 2012, shortly after ASIL eliminated its librarian position, Barbara Bean (Michigan State University Law Library) and I volunteered to serve as EISIL’s general factota.  Barbara continued training EISIL editors and I continued accumulating potential new sources for EISIL.  However, since early 2013, ASIL has allowed no updating of EISIL because to do so might crash the EISIL system, which is superannuated.  This has caused the database to become seriously outdated, as no new content has been added, and existing content has not been updated.

Barbara and Don also tried to keep EISIL alive.  During the period 2012-2016 there were a number of discussions, both with Elizabeth Andersen, ASIL’s former Executive Director, and with Mark Agrast, ASIL’s current Executive Director, about migrating EISIL to a new platform.  In addition, repeated attempts were made to include EISIL within the broader framework of the ASIL website redesign project, to no avail.  This spring, Don and Barbara felt they had to recommend to ASIL that the database be suppressed until it can be properly updated.

An article on the history of EISIL and on the efforts to keep it alive will be published in the fall 2016 issue of the Informer, the electronic newsletter of ASIL’s International Legal Research Interest Group (ILRIG).  In the meantime, please let ASIL Executive Director Mark Agrast know your concerns.  He may be reached at magrast@asil.org.

 

It’s Time For Chicago!

Registration is now open for the 2016 AALL Annual Meeting and Conference in Chicago!  In addition to member-discounted pricing, deeply discounted registration rates are available for students and retirees. Nonmember conference registration packages also include a complimentary one-year AALL membership – by joining us in Chicago, you’ll be joining AALL as well!

The FCIL-SIS looks forward to welcoming all attendees to its 2016 Schaffer Grant for Foreign Law Librarians presentation, which will take place on Monday, July 18, from 4:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., in Hyatt-Columbus GH. This year’s recipient, Ms. Rheny Pulungan, is Liaison Support Librarian at the University of Melbourne’s Law School Library. As Liaison Support Librarian, she supplies reference services, teaches legal research workshops, and completes collection development projects. Ms. Pulungan holds a Ph.D and Masters degree in International Law from the University of Melbourne, and a Master of Information Studies in Librarianship from the University of Canberra. Previously, Ms. Pulungan received her Bachelor of Laws from Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia, and served as Law Faculty Lecturer at Bengkulu University, where she specialized in international law. Ms. Pulungan’s experience in both Indonesian and Australian law, as well as law librarianship, will be reflected in her presentation, which will treat comparatively access to legal information in both countries.

In addition to the Schaffer Grant presentation on July 18, the AALL Conference will feature the following FCIL-related programming:

Sunday, July 17th

4:00 p.m. – Asian Legal Information in English: Availability, Accessibility, and Quality Control

Tuesday, July 19

8:30 a.m. – Roman Law, Roman Order, and Restatements

11:00 a.m. – Vanishing Online? Legal and Policy Implications for Libraries of the EU’s “Right to be Forgotten”

The FCIL-SIS is also working with the American Society of International Law to co-sponsor a pre-conference workshop to be held on Saturday, July 16 at 9:30 a.m. ($50 additional registration fee applies.)  The workshop, which is entitled Two Sides to the United Nations: Working with Public and Private International Law at the UN, is designed to equip all law librarians with foundational knowledge of the United Nations and CISG (both of which have recent significant changes to their online databases), and to increase their fluency with the major U.N. and CISG documents, information, research resources, and strategies.

If you are presenting on an FCIL-related topic in Chicago and would like your program to be featured on DipLawMatic Dialogues, or if you are interested in blogging about the conference programs listed above, please contact blog administrators Susan Gualtier (susan.gualtier@law.lsu.edu) or Loren Turner (lturner@law.ufl.edu). We look forward to seeing you in Chicago this summer!

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The Stagnation of International Law: 2015 ASIL Conference Program Report

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by Evelyn Ma

I’ve just returned from the annual ASIL meeting in Washington D.C., which coincided with the Jessup International Moot Court Competition.  The Hyatt Regency Hotel where both conferences were held was bustling with international lawyers, jurists, students and scholars, many of whom juggled their schedules to take in programs at both venues.

The first full day of programs on Thursday, April 9th provided one of the more memorable events entitled “The Stagnation of International Law”.  The panel discussion was moderated by Kal Raustiala from UCLA with panelists Ayelet Berman from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies of Geneva, Dinah Shelton and Edward Swaine from George Washington University, and Ingo Venzke from the University of Amsterdam.

The moderator began the session by noting that the number of multilateral treaties has declined since 2000.  He asked if this phenomenon signifies stagnation of international law.  Professor Shelton noted that stagnation only applies to multilateral treaty making. Other panelists noted that bilateral treaties, informal law and normative documents signed by parties with no formal treaty-making powers were on the rise. The decrease in the number of multilateral treaties concluded, however, as noted by the panelists, does not take into consideration the number of provisions concluded in individual treaties, their relative importance, as well as the number of parties entering into each treaty. A discussion followed as to whether the rise of soft law would replace multilateral treaty law-making.

Causes proposed by the panelists to account for the decline of multilateral treaty-making include both internal and external factors.  Domestic pressure, more players in the international law system, and few remaining unincorporated customs were issues discussed by the panelists.  Professor Shelton noted that in the international environmental law regime, the change of environmental standards has accelerated dramatically and some issues are not mature yet (while some, too mature) for judicial adjudication and is thus best decided on a case by case basis.  Professor Venzke noted that another cause for the decline in multilateral treaties was a decline in hegemony, of the United States in particular, as in the field of international economic law. Professor Shelton also talked about the cost and effort in the process of concluding a multilateral treaty. There will still be a need for more global standards in economic and technological areas, but non-binding agreements will come to be preferred.  The need for flexibility and the uncertainty of obtaining domestic approval will continue to disfavor multilateral treaty-making.

FCIL Internships and International Exchanges Committee Report

By David McFaddenexchanges

The FCIL Internships and International Exchanges Committee met on 14 July in San Antonio.  David McFadden (Chair), Jim Hart, Jootaek Lee, Andrew “Tig” Wartluft, and Hunter Whaley attended.

There were no known requests or known use of committee services.  There was a question as to whether the committee could get a report of traffic and activity on its website.  The survey and committee handout were distributed by Sally Holterhoff at IFLA in August 2013, and at the ASIL meeting in Spring 2014 by Marty Witt.  Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match: The Internships & Exchanges Committee, an article by James W. Hart and David McFadden highlighting the committee’s work, appeared in the October 2013 issue of the FCIL Newsletter.  Peter Roudik and Marty Witt worked on a program proposal for San Antonio entitled Between School and Employment: Best Practices in Accommodating and Managing Interns and Conducting Internships for Law Librarians.  Unfortunately, the program was not accepted.  Marty Witt worked on updating the survey instrument and results report.

There was a discussion about updating the FCIL Internship and International Exchanges website.  It was reported that Marty Witt is finishing up work on the survey instrument and results report.  There was a suggestion to use a LibGuides format for the results.  More reports of visits and exchanges will be solicited in the coming year.  Also, the resources page will be restored to the website.

Those present at the meeting agreed to assignments for updating the current survey results and soliciting new participants.  Those assigned in earlier years will be contacted to see about their progress and continued interest in helping the committee.

Different ways of publicizing and promoting the committee’s work were discussed.  Attendees of the upcoming IFLA meeting will be contacted again this year.

Marty Witt agreed to take over as chair for the 2014-2015 term.

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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