Around the Section of International Law - June 2019

ABA International Members,

For those of you in the northern hemisphere, summer has arrived! The longest day of the year is now behind us, but we still have many long, golden sun-filled days to enjoy in the months ahead. The Section’s wonderful working relationship with the Law Society of England and Wales has continued to bear fruit. We are convening in Oxford for the star-studded Oxford Conference on Leadership in Law and Practice and hope to see you there! Watch for pictures and updates in our Section’s LinkedIn groups and other social media accounts.

New ABA Membership Model

Renewal notices for the upcoming ABA year are now landing in mailboxes and inboxes. Never has there been a better time to renew your membership, and invite a friend to join our dynamic, friendly, diverse and professionally excellent group of colleagues in the International Law Section. The ABA has a new membership model, with a streamlined dues structure. This is good news for many current and prospective members, and for the Section as well. ABA general membership dues have substantially decreased in some categories.  By way of example, a U.S. attorney in practice for nine years paid ABA dues of $354 in 2018-2019; under the new membership model such an attorney will pay $150 in the upcoming year! U.S. attorneys in practice for one to four years will pay only $75.00 in ABA dues, instead of between $146.00 and $183.00, and government, non-profit, solo, small firm and international lawyers will all pay $150.00 instead of between $146.00 and $467.00. Renew your membership for the upcoming year, and don’t forget to add the International Law Section.

Networking and Knowledge-Building Opportunities

The opportunities to learn, meet and mingle with your fellow Section members around the world continue this summer and into the fall. As mentioned last month, London and the surrounding English countryside are taking center stage right now.

The Oxford Conference on Leadership in Law and Practice is taking place between June 30 and July 2, 2019 at Oxford in England.  Speakers include four supreme court justices (from the U.S., U.K. and Ireland), four ABA presidents, three bar presidents (from the Law Society of England and Wales, the Law Society of Scotland and the Bar Council of England and Wales), as well as highly respected leaders in business, law and government. Watch for pictures and updates in our main LinkedIn group, ABA International, as well as your personal newsfeeds and some of the dozens of committee LinkedIn groups.

As summer turns into fall, the Section will head to the U.S. West Coast for the International Start-Up and Emerging Growth Forum: Pushing the Boundaries at the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco from September 12-13, 2019. Presented in the world’s start-up capital, this Forum will focus on issues critical to the development and success of international start-up and emerging growth companies. Featured speakers will include counsel from iconic companies such as LinkedIn and Uber. Registration is now open for the Forum.

You won’t want to miss our Leadership Retreat, taking place immediately after the Forum from September 13-15, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Rosa, California. In addition to value-packed networking with Section leadership in a relaxed and scenic setting in the heart of California wine country, there will be interactive strategic planning sessions for the upcoming bar year and excursions around Sonoma County, topped off by a wine tasting and spectacular sunset dinner. For more information and to register for the Leadership Retreat, see: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/international_law/events_cle/retreat/ . 

Continuing west across the Pacific Ocean (or east, depending upon your frame of reference) to Hong Kong, we will hold the Asia-Pacific Forum: Strategies to Navigate the Life Cycle of a Cross-Border Deal from October 24-25, 2019 at the Hong Kong Arbitration Centre. The focus will be on cross-border deal making, as the title suggests. Differences between Western and Asian cultures will be accented in a review of transactional navigation strategies and dispute resolution techniques. As a special treat, the Forum will occur during Hong Kong Arbitration Week, a key professional event for Asian arbitration practitioners. For more information and to register for the Forum, see: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/international_law/events_cle/asia-pacific-forum--navigating-the-life-cycle-of-a-cross-border-/ .

Help Shatter the Glass – Participate in the Diversity Survey

Because diversity and inclusion are integral to the future success of the Section, we would like to hear from you directly, and need only five minutes of your time. Please take a moment to do two things: 

1) click on the I Count Survey link and provide us with your personal feedback on diversity and inclusion in the Section. It only takes three to five minutes to complete.

2) forward the survey on to other members. The more members we hear from the better informed the Section will be to address any concerns and celebrate any achievements. 

The survey closes on July 15, 2019.

Your input is extremely useful as you are important to the Section. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Diversity Officer, Adejoke Babington-Ashaye. Thank you for your time. 

Our Section’s Outsized Role in Successfully Initiating ABA Presidential Statements

Statements from the Office of the ABA President are an important mechanism for broadcasting information to the public on key emerging and complex legal matters. Because of the influence and high visibility of the ABA, Presidential Statements are reserved for topics where the Association speaks with a unified voice to make a genuine impact.  In the 2018-19 year, ABA President Bob Carlson has issued 25 Presidential Statements to date.  SIL members will be pleased to learn that no fewer than 10 of those Statements have related to international matters.  Considering the fact that there are 34 ABA Sections, as well as a myriad of ABA commissions, task forces, working groups and other entities, this is an amazing accomplishment! Our Section has brought key legal developments to President Carlson’s attention, and participated in the drafting of Presidential Statements voicing the Association’s concerns over: the U.S. government’s recent announcement aimed at restricting visas for International Criminal Court officials, loss of due process protections in Zimbabwe; proposed changes deleterious to Hungary’s court systemthreats to the rule of law in Guatemalapreserving judicial independence in Mexico; the threat to the rule of law prompted by attempted judicial reforms in Poland; and the ongoing systemic mistreatment of the Uyghurs in China and adjacent countries.

Presidential Statements may also be used to recognize positive developments and significant anniversaries.  This year Presidential Statements acknowledged International Women’s Daythe International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, and the 70th Anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, all significant dates to SIL members.

Consistent with our focus on international legal matters, many of our Section members are actively involved in advancing legal assistance to immigrants and refugees.  Six Presidential Statements have been issued this year related to the ongoing immigration and refugee crises in the U.S.  These have ranged from calling on the administration and Congress to act on the conditions oof and the improper detention of immigrant children, to demanding the rescission of controversial asylum rules for refugees and seeking improvements to the U.S. immigration system.  SIL members involved in immigration law have contributed to these statements which are in addition to the ABA Commission on Immigration’s formal communications. 

Presidential Statements are only one of the tools in our communications arsenal. We encourage SIL committees to explore additional mechanisms to raise awareness on emerging legal topics, such as offering teleconferences and brown bags. SIL continues to play an outsized role in spotlighting important policy and rule of law matters and that is something we should be proud of!  A special thanks goes to to our Rule of Law Officer, Mikhail Reider-Gordon. A list of all Presidential Statements is available online.

Belt and Road Task Force

China has embarked on an enormous global infrastructure investment program called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with multi-million dollar projects on almost every continent. These projects have the potential to modernize the economies of many developing countries in sweeping ways. However, they also have the potential to create debt traps, forcing sovereigns to surrender ports and other key elements of their national infrastructure to China in foreclosure actions.

In the fall of 2018 the Belt and Road Task Force was formed to explore ways in which the Section might become involved in this historic endeavor, lending the expertise of its members to help create a level playing field and bolster the long-term success of the projects for all the parties. The Task Force was divided into committees concentrating on three areas that might be ripe for technical assistance. The first committee focused on the tensions in the South China Sea and the feasibility of establishing a joint resource development and sharing agreement among nations in the region as a way to constructively defuse those tensions. The second committee focused on ways to improve the Asian Development Bank and other project finance lenders in the region. The third focused on the feasibility of producing and securing the acceptance and use of improved loan documentation that contains standard terms and protections for both borrowers and financiers in accordance with international best practices.

Although much work remains to be done, each of the Task Force committees has prepared a set of initial recommendations.

In Other News

Congratulations to Saudi lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair who has been selected to receive the 2019 ABA International Human Rights Award at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco on August 8, 2019! Abu al-Khair founded Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia in 2008, and has dedicated his career to defending human rights and freedom of expression. For more information on his work and the award, see:.

The International Election Law Task Force has been hard at work on a number of projects. It is  currently concentrating on consolidating the Global Network on Electoral Justice with the Mexico Federal Electoral Tribunal and on piloting regional electoral jurisprudence networks to connect peers in Eurasia and Africa. The Task Force is also considering comparative legislative, regulatory and enforcement issues surrounding social media and elections. Finally, it is developing a database of electoral case law, focused particularly on petitions against results, campaign finance and abuse of state resources cases, and on election prosecutions. The Task Force is always looking for additional members, so anyone interested in joining should let me know.

Robert L. Brown
Chair, International Law Section