U.S. Mission Geneva,
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
To start, let me give all of you a warm welcome to the US Mission. I would like to first welcome the guests we are honoring at this event, the members of the International Law Commission. The ILC is composed of thirty-four outstanding jurists – lawyers, judges, and scholars — from throughout the world. You have been working together in Geneva for the last month on complex issues of international law that have real practical importance.
I would also like to welcome members of Geneva’s legal and diplomatic communities. In addition to diplomats, we are proud to host here notable members of civil society, professors, and lawyers for Geneva-based international organizations. Thanks for joining us this evening.
I would also like to recognize several persons from our Mission who are in attendance, particularly Ambassador Keith Harper, our Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, who was a successful lawyer in private practice before he came to Geneva. For this legal audience, I would also like to recognize one of my legal advisors at the U.S. Mission, Mr. Kevin Whelan.
Particularly for this audience of international lawyers, I want to stress the key role that the rule of law plays for the United States. Our country is one that was largely founded by lawyers — and a country that is still governed to a surprising extent by lawyers, of course including our President, a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former law professor at the University of Chicago. Top-notch lawyers apply to policy problems a way of thinking that is both rigorously analytical and grounded in a practical understanding of humanity. This way of thinking is familiar to many of you in the room. This tradition may be one reason our country recognizes the essential benefit of governance under law.
I also want to point to the importance of international law. The bodies of treaties and rules governing the relations among states are complex and important, no matter what they address. As our world becomes more interconnected, international law becomes more important.
I also want to emphasize the importance of the ILC and its work. Our ILC guests here today who see firsthand the extent of U.S. input into their ongoing projects, may already appreciate how much my country cares about the ILC’s work. We care because many ILC products have become the basis for important treaties that are now widely ratified; one example is the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The ILC’s projects that lead to results other than treaties are likewise very valuable, because they clarify key areas of international law.
In this light, I would like to draw attention to the connections between the ILC’s work and other efforts in Geneva. The legal discussions within the ILC and the policy discussions happening in other Geneva institutions are relevant to each other, and both of these processes can benefit from each other. After I speak, the Chairman of the ILC, Mr. Gevorgian, will say a few words. I hope he will address some of the topics that are currently on the ILC’s plate, so that you can see the relevance of the ILC’s work to other things that we in the diplomatic community are jointly pursuing.
For example, I understand that one of the ILC’s newest topics is crimes against humanity, a topic of significant priority for many of our states and for the UN as a whole, including in our daily work in fields such as humanitarian work, human rights, and atrocity prevention.
As another example, the ILC is also addressing the protection of persons in the event of disasters, a topic closely related to the work of many Geneva organizations, for example on disaster risk reduction and through a state-led initiative on Migrants in Countries in Crisis which is co-chaired by the U.S.
I hope that you will use this reception as a chance to make similar connections between the ILC’s legal work and the various types of work that others do in Geneva. With that, I am glad to hand things over to the Chairman of the ILC,
Mr. Kirill Gevorgian.