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Staying on course with law.

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. In recent years participants have included speakers from the Inter-American Development Bank, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNIDROIT, the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Ministries of External Relations of Canada and Spain. On occasion, specialists of the General Secretariat join the course faculty. This body of instructors, who share a professional involvement in the application and development of the topics discussed, offers the participants an opportunity to share ideas with distinguished figures in regional and international law.

The Rio course is not exclusively academic in nature; its focus is practical as well as theoretical. Its goal is to provide those who have to deal with problems of international law on a daily basis in universities, within the legal system, or in foreign ministries throughout the Hemisphere, with fresh insight into the legal issues of greatest interest to the countries of the region. In recent years these issues have included: the protection of human rights in the inter-American system, the work of specialized inter-American conferences on private international law, the law of treaties, the law of the sea, transnational enterprises, integration, environmental law, extradition, asylum, international responsibility, international contracting, international trade, the legal immunity of states, collective security in the inter-American system, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

The course does not forget the public officials, academics and jurists who have contributed to the development and recognition of the role of international law in the Americas. Since 1976, a member of the committee or a guest speaker has delivered a lecture honoring the memory of one such figure. Tributes have been devoted to Carlos Calvo, Epitacio Pessoa, Joseph Story, Jose Caicedo Castilla, Adolfo Molina Orantes, Antonio Sanchez de Bustamante, Simon Bolivar, Quintin Alfonsin, Ignacio L. Vallarta, Luis Maria Drago, Raul Fernandes, Antonio Arenas, Charles Fenwick, Haroldo Valladao, Luis A. Podesta Costa and Raul Sapena Pastor. The 1993 course will honor the memory of Alejandro Alvarez, an international jurist from Chile who was a member of the International Court of Justice.

The benefits which the course offers its participants do not end with the closing ceremony. Naturally, its graduates leave Rio de Janeiro with a valuable addition to their professional knowledge, but beyond that they carry with them close bonds of friendship with their fellow students. Tomorrow these young people of the Americas will be professors, judges or senior foreign ministry officials, and the ties forged during the course will prove of inestimable worth in affirming solidarity and cooperation among the peoples of the Hemisphere.

The joint efforts of the Inter-American Juridical Committee, the OAS General Secretariat and the Getulio Vargas Foundation, where the course is traditionally held, make possible a program that reaffirms the true devotion of the Organization of American States to respect for international law and its development.

Dr. Hugo Caminos, a native of Argentina, is Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs of the Organization of American States and coordinator of the international law course of the IAJC.
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Title Annotation:The Inter-American System; Inter-American Juridical Committee annual comprehensive seminar in international law
Author:Caminos, Hugo; Daniels, Willem
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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