Congratulations to the organizers of the second conference of the Latin American Society of International Law (LASIL-SLADI), here in Rio de Janeiro. This was the second conference for this relatively new regional international law society, with the first conference having been held in Mexico in 2010.
Organized alongside the 10th Brazilian conference on international law, the LASIL-SLADI meeting successfully brought together representatives from regional societies from five continents. The conference began with a unique opening panel, hearing perspectives from the African Foundation for International Law, the Asian Society of International Law, and the European Society of International Law, as well as two national societies for the United States and Canada to ensure that the Western Hemisphere was fully represented. (I’m here representing the Canadian Council on International Law and the Canadian perspective.)
Whether there is a regional approach to international law, or what that means in terms of content, is one of the questions underlying the discussions here, with regionalism having some paradoxical connotations when juxtaposed against national societies that have become global in their interests (and with respect to at least one or two national societies, global in their memberships). As Her Excellency Judge Xue of the International Court of Justice remarked in her insightful presentation for the Asian Society of International Law perspective, what does regionalism mean to international law and should there be a different approach? There is also the question of why is there growth in the establishment of regional international law societies when we also discuss global approaches to shared problems and concerns? Of course, practical considerations such as costs through regional collaboration, and the desire to provide a forum for intellectual exchange, also feature in these discussions.
Another insightful comment was found in the opening remarks of His Excellency Judge Bernardo Sepúlveda-Amor, Vice-President of the International Court of Justice, and the first President of LASIL-SLADI, who commented on the notable presence of Latin America within the Court and the significant number of countries within Latin America that have placed their confidence in the Court for the settlement of disputes. He also commented on the trans-border theme that animates much of the discussions of Latin America and international law, with Latin American countries making use of judicial bodies, including the Court of Mercosur, to settle disputes. And the International Court of Justice also showed its support for LASIL-SLADI, with three members in attendance at the second conference – His Excellency Judge Cançado Trindade serving as an intellectually invigorating chair for the second plenary session on recent developments in dispute settlement. Judge Cançado will also assume the presidency of LASIL-SLADI for the next stage in its development.
Parallel sessions held after the plenary sessions focussed on trade, investment issues, and the environment, as well as issues of migration and the regional protection of human rights (with corridor discussions touching upon a certain dispute between Ecuador and the UK, as you can well imagine).
In short, an excellent conference, and one hopes that these efforts at collaboration between regional societies (and national societies that are perhaps a region unto themselves) will lead to further exchanges of perspectives, developments and shared understandings. Congratulations again to organizers Professor Marcelo Kohen (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva) and Professor Wagner Menezes (University of São Paulo).