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Tuesday, 22 February 2011 - 6.00pm
Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, Finley Library

Dr Nico Schrijver is Professor of International Law and Academic Director of the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University. He currently serves as the President of the worldwide International Law Association and the President of the Netherlands Society for International Law. He is also a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and an associate member of the Institut de droit international.

In 2008, Dr Schrijver was elected as a life member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Social Sciences. In 2009-10, he served as a member of the Dutch Committee of Inquiry on the War in Iraq and he is the principal author of the chapters on foreign affairs and the basis in international law for the use of force against Iraq in the final report of the Committee. In the early 1990s, he worked as a legal officer with the Office of the Legal Counsel, United Nations, New York. He has appeared in various proceedings before the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and specialized international tribunals on maritime affairs and on foreign investment regulation.

His research interests include general international law, the law of international institutions, the United Nations system, peace and security, human rights, and legal aspects of sustainable development.

Speaker : Professor Nico Schrijver, Chair of Public International Law, Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University; President of the International Law Association

Dates : Tuesday 22nd | Wednesday 23rd | Thursday 24th February 2011 6-7pm (Plus a Q & A session during the Friday Lunchtime Lecture session at 1pm on Friday 25th February)

2010-11 Lectures: Overview

Reform of the United Nations is as old as the world organization itself. Throughout its existence numerous reform proposals have been put forward. However, ‘big bang’ reform has not proved feasible. Instead, gradual reform has been achieved by a series of incremental measures in the absence of agreement among the great powers on fundamental reform. Perhaps the most significant reform has occurred as a result of the evolution of the UN’s goals and objectives. It has evolved from a primarily peace and security organization into a general global justice organization that pursues various new objectives many of which were not foreseen in 1945 such as decolonisation, sustainable development and post-conflict peace-building. This development has also led to evolutionary and creative interpretations of the mandates of the principal political organs of the United Nations, most notably those of the General Assembly and the Security Council.

Throughout the existence of the United Nations, the meaning of the key concepts of peace and security, human rights, self-determination and development have changed considerably: from ‘negative’ towards ‘positive’ peace and from military towards comprehensive security; from Cold War human rights rhetoric towards universality and indivisibility; from external towards internal self-determination and ‘good governance’; from economic development towards sustainable development.

There has been a proliferation of UN organs, funds, programmes, commissions and committees at the institutional level although the basic structure of the United Nations as an organization of member States with six principal organs and associated specialized agencies (Bretton Woods institutions, FAO, UNESCO, etc.) has remained intact. Nevertheless, it has become patently evident that bold reform of the UN at the beginning of the 21st century is essential if the organization is not to risk losing its representativeness, legitimacy and credibility as well as effectiveness. This lecture series looks into the options for bold reform and examines what the role of international law in this could and should be. Consequently, the focus of the lecture series is on the United Nations of the Future rather than on the future of the United Nations.

First Lecture : Introduction and UN reform during the first sixty-five years

Tuesday 22 February 2011

This first lecture defines the concept of UN reform and discusses its modalities and formalities, including the Charter amendment procedure and the convening of a General Conference for the purpose of reviewing the Charter. Several examples of previous reform are examined, ranging from changing the voting procedures of the UN Security Council to agreeing on new objectives of the organization such as decolonisation and sustainable development as well as establishing new organs such as UNCTAD, the Human Rights Council and sanctions committees. Furthermore, the reform proposals of the 2005 World Summit are discussed, coined by the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan as a “once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity”. The results fell short of expectations, but included the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Democracy Fund and the Human Rights Council, as well as recognition of the principle of ‘the responsibility to protect’.

Lecture I : Powerpoint Presentation

Second Lecture : The role of international law in UN reform

Wednesday 23 February 2011

International law can be viewed as both an impediment to and a stimulus for UN reform. Obviously, the formal amendment procedures of the UN Charter and other statutes restrain reform to a considerable extent. But international law has also proved to be flexible and pragmatic in fostering or at least accommodating the need for reform. This lecture seeks to identify various legal techniques employed towards this end. These include evolutionary and creative treaty interpretation, the emergence of new rules of customary international law, ‘permissive’ and ‘programmatory’ resolutions of the UN General Assembly, the advisory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, the establishment of new organs (such as UNCTAD and UNEP) and the creation of new compliance mechanisms (e.g., peace-keeping operations and special human rights procedures)

Lecture II : Powerpoint Presentation

Third Lecture : The international architecture for global governance and global justice

Thursday 24 February 2011

Consultation and decision-making on global issues are currently poorly organized. Few would argue that the Security Council has a representative composition and operates effectively. However, the UN General Assembly is merely an assembly of state parties rather than something of a “we, the peoples” institution. The International Court of Justice, with its consent-based jurisdiction and limitation to inter-state disputes, is hardly a world court. The Secretary-General is in nearly all respects a secretary rather than a general. Co-ordination of and consultation on global economic and financial affairs has for long been lost to a multiplicity of other actors, including the Bretton Woods institutions, ad hoc fora such as the Groups of Seven and Twenty, and the market. Even the UN’s very function as a permanent platform for North-South dialogue and as an agency for international co-operation has come under attack, as a result of not only the withdrawal of some western states from multilateralism but also of the blurring of the distinction between developed and developing countries. Can the UN be reformed or are we heading towards a post-UN era?

Lecture III : Powerpoint Presentation


A list of all recorded events and lectures at the Lauterpacht Centre can be viewed in on this website in Media/Audio recordings.