Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Call for Applications: The Hague Academy's Seminar for Advanced Studies

The Hague Academy of International Law is now accepting applications for the eighth session of the Seminar for Advanced Studies, which is to take place January 15-21, 2012. This year's subject is "Responding to the Challenges of Natural and Industrial Catastrophes - New Directions for International Law." The program is available here. The closing date for applications is August 31, 2011. Here's the idea:

In view of recent experience, the law of catastrophes with transboundary consequences has gained increased prominence and may even constitute a distinct field of international law. In 1995, the Hague Academy of International Law sponsored pioneering research in the field when its Centre for Studies and Research focused on national and industrial catastrophes. The Hague Conference on Private International Law has conducted significant research in the field of civil liability for environmental damage and even considered preparing a Hague Convention on environmental damage.

Despite greater interest and scholarship on natural and industrial (man-made) catastrophes by international lawyers in the last twenty years, complex issues, both legal and practical, remain and arise in the aftermath of each new catastrophe. Their real-world significance for international law, on the one hand, relates as much to the heavy human and environmental toll resulting from recent catastrophes as to their transnational legal consequences. Recent transboundary catastrophes have confirmed this and brought some of those pressing practical issues regularly to the fore. These include earthquakes and tsunamis (Haiti, Peru, Japan), floods, major spills (Deep Water Horizon) and industrial releases (Bhopal, Chernobyl, Fukushima). Legally, on the other hand, some of the controversial issues raised by those disasters have received appropriate international recognition, including the extent of the duty to initiate preventive measures under the precautionary principle, the role of non-state actors and in particular individual or corporate liability in international law for damages. These and other issues have been addressed in the International Court of Justice's decisions and in the International Law Commission's work on the protection of persons in the event of disasters. Current practical and legal circumstances provide a timely opportunity therefore to convene a seminar that is directed at practitioners and during which those multi-layered and legal issues can be systematically addressed by experts.

The seminar seeks to provide participating practitioners with up-to-date and advanced knowledge of legal and practical mechanisms for protecting against the consequences of natural and industrial catastrophes. After an introduction to the main challenges currently faced by both public and private international lawyers in the area, the course will be divided into two sections that correspond to the two groups of international primary legal duties and their respective liability regimes. Experts will address in each session the complex cross-cutting issues pertaining to the subjects (often at once states, international organizations, individuals and corporations) and the associated primary and secondary duties (preventive, reactive and remedial). Those questions include, for example, the role of individuals as, alternatively or cumulatively, authors and victims of international law violations and their respective implications in liability regimes (e.g. attribution or invocation); the respective role of transnational corporations and of international organizations in that context; and the types of specific primary and secondary duties of prevention, reaction and compensation. The course will also emphasize the special principles, existing and evolving, that have developed in this field of international law. The last day of the course will be devoted to an exercise in real-time multilateral crisis management in the event of a hypothetical natural or industrial disaster and will be coached by senior legal counsels from multinational groups.

The seminar is directed chiefly at practitioners including government lawyers and policy makers, judges, counsel in private practice or corporate positions and international civil servants, working in the field of international law and who need an intensive training or a refresher course in the public and private international law aspects of natural and industrial catastrophes. In addition, participants will include those seeking more knowledge of the issues because of anticipated involvement or concern with the implications. The seminar adopts a practice-oriented approach and is based on the extensive experience of renowned practitioners and the expertise of leading international academics in the field. As the program indicates, seminar participants will also have an opportunity to meet with some widely respected international law judges who are based in The Hague. Finally, scheduling will allow ample time for informal exchanges among the participants and sharing of experiences and knowledge.