Entitled “Practical Legal Problems of International Organizations,” the stated purpose of the March 20-21 conference was to “raise and analyze important operational issues” confronting major international organizations (IOs), with a focus on “public and private partnerships [and] mechanisms for coordination and cooperation between IOs in legal matters, liability and credibility issues, human rights and [international law].”
The Geneva conference was conceived within NYU’s Global Administrative Law Project, part of the IILJ, led by Benedict Kingsbury, Murry and Ida Becker Professor of Law, and Richard Stewart, University Professor and John Edward Sexton Professor of Law. Aiding in conception were Professor Laurence Boisson de Chazournes of the University of Geneva Law School and Judge Sabino Cassese of the Italian Constitutional Court.
Additional event hosts were the Geneva Law’s Department of Public International Law and International Organization, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rome-based Institute for Research on Public Administration.
Underlying the proceedings, said Stewart in a post-conference interview in New York, was the question, “What happens when people are hurt by these large, sprawling bureaucracies, often operating remotely? What legal mechanisms should be in place to hold them accountable to the people they try to serve, or the people affected by their decisions?”
Answers can be difficult, ranging from impolitic to presently impossible. Consider the matter of Darfur, the western region of Sudan gripped by war and genocide while the regime in the capital of Khartoum, in the east, is hostile to the plight of distant refugees.
"When U.N. peacekeeping forces go into Darfur, are they responsible to the government of Sudan or to individuals?” Stewart asked.
Since the regime is cooperating, to a degree, in efforts by some IOs to provide lawyers to Darfurians, Stewart’s jurisdictional question is not as clear-cut as it might seem. He said he was advised by a number of conference participants that pushing Khartoum too hard and too fast on human rights protections could prove counter-productive.
“It’s a real dilemma,” said Stewart. “But we’re trying.”
A report, along with selected papers presented at the conference, is to be published by the IILJ. Conference attendees from NYU Law, besides Stewart and Kingsbury, were Professors Simon Chesterman and Ryan Goodman, IILJ research fellows Lorenzo Casini and Euan MacDonald, and LL.M. candidate Davinia Abdul Aziz.
Other attendees included representatives from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the Global Fund, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Labor Organization, Interpol, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs, as well as five U.N. agencies -- the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; the Conference on Trade and Development; the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; and the Office of Internal Oversight Services.