Staying on Course with Law

Article excerpt

Since 1974, the Inter-American Juridical Committee (IAJC) of the OAS has held, on a regular annual basis, a comprehensive seminar in international law in Rio de Janeiro. On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of this course, OAS Secretary General Ambassador Joao Baena Soares commented that the educational work being carried out by the hemispheric entity "is one of the most valuable services provided by the OAS to the citizens of member states, not only in the legal field, but in many others related to professional advanced training."

Over time, this seminar has become an important event for young lawyers and diplomats wishing to develop their expertise in the topics of public and private international law most relevant to the Hemisphere.

The idea for the course was put forward in 1972 by Guatemalan jurist Adolfo Molina Orantes, who was then chairman of the Juridical Committee. Mr. Molina had just taken part as observer for the committee at that year's sessions of the UN Commission on International Law in Geneva, where he had the opportunity to see the fruitful teaching and outreach efforts of the seminar sponsored by that commission. That experience led Molina Orantes to become an enthusiastic advocate of a similar project in the Americas. The idea crystallized in the January-February 1973 session of the IAJC, which resolved "to organize an annual course on international law."

As not infrequently happens with important initiatives, the course began with modest funding, but it signaled an admirable determination to contribute to the study and dissemination of international law. The first course attracted 12 grantees from different member countries, thanks to the collaboration of the OAS Fellowship Program, as well as a few residents of Rio selected by the Getulio Vargas Foundation. As the committee's observer at the General Assembly of the OAS in 1975 noted, "the course was a complete success: it enabled the students . . . to expand their knowledge, the instructors to express their ideas in a prestigious venue, and the Inter-American Juridical Committee to publicize its work. In short, it helped establish useful contacts among professionals with shared aims and backgrounds." On that occasion the Assembly responded favorably to the Juridical Committee's request to make the course a permanent offering, allocate funds necessary to increase the number of fellowships and publish the text of the classes.

From the first course in 1974 to the nineteenth in 1992, 512 grantees from almost all OAS member states, selected by the General Secretariat's Fellowship Department, have participated, as well as 151 students chosen by the Getulio Vargas Foundation, eight students chosen by the Candido Mendes Law Faculty of Rio, and 94 students who paid their own expenses and were admitted by the course coordinating committee. The total number of participants stands at 765, a figure eloquently expressive of the interest which the course has aroused among the region's young students.

The course offers four weeks of daily classes, working group meetings, round table discussions and seminars. The faculty includes members of the Juridical Committee as well as guest lecturers, generally university professors in the member states or diplomats with experience in international conferences on legal issues. In addition, special speakers sent by international organizations or agencies contribute to the course's success. …