The Role of Legal Institutions in the Economic Development of the Americas Transcript

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DEAN GUSTAFSON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I want to welcome you to the Georgetown University Law Center. My name is Charles Gustafson. I'm the Associate Dean for International and Graduate Programs.

There are a number of reasons why it's particularly satisfying for me to welcome you to this very important conference. First of all, the Law Center has assembled an extraordinary faculty, both full-time and adjunct, that brings learning and experience from virtually every part of the globe to the enterprise that we undertake here.

As a result, the Law Center is able to offer more courses and seminars dealing with international law, foreign and comparative law, and issues arising from either the cooperation between--or in some cases competition between or among--legal systems, than, we believe, any law school in the world.

Every year we have professors, scholars, and students from several other countries. There are three student journals that publish works focusing on different aspects of international issues, and only last year the faculty approved the establishment of the Georgetown Law Center of the Americas, which we call Law Casa, specifically to endeavor to build bridges and to exchange learning with the legal communities--academic, professional, and governmental--of the Western Hemisphere. So on behalf of my colleagues at the Law Center I'm happy to have you here.

Second, I'm delighted that this occasion, this conference, marks an important example of cooperation between the Law Center and the Organization of American States. In a sense, the conference is a part of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Organization of American States, and I think it's a particularly appropriate vehicle for advancing that celebration. I hope and believe that it will be the first of a number of ventures between the Law Center and the Organization of American States that will advance our common objectives.

The third reason that I'm particularly happy to be attending this particular conference is that I have an interest in law and development that goes back for more than three decades. There was a time when at least some development specialists believed, or seemed to believe, that law and legal institutions were at best irrelevant to the process of development. In some cases they reflected a belief that law and legal institutions were the enemy of development because of the perception that law necessarily defended the status quo, and, therefore, by definition was inconsistent with the ideas of advancing the objectives of economic, social, and political development.

That was never a correct view, I believed then, and during the last decade and a half all of you who have been involved in issues involving development have seen an increased recognition of the importance of understanding and using legal systems and administrative systems, the importance of the rule of law in advancing economic objectives and the preservation of personal liberties and personal safety. So I think it's a timely occasion for us to be meeting here to discuss these issues.

The director of Law Casa is also the organizer and director of this conference, and you will be seeing him from time to time today beginning in a few seconds, but I want to say a word about him. Dr. Jaime Infante received his initial law degree from a University in Bogata. He has masters degrees from Georgetown and American University, and received his S.J.D. from Georgetown a few years ago.

When the faculty approved the establishment of the Georgetown Law Center of the Americas, we felt that there couldn't be a better person to lead this effort than someone who had been a student in a law school in South America and who had been a student in several law schools in the United States. I believe that we were very lucky indeed to have Dr. Infante agree to become the director of Law Casa and this day is in part a tribute to his energies and his insights. …


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