Alvarez Addresses Council of Former Heads Of State

June 23, 2008 (NEW YORK) – Columbia Law School Professor Jose Alvarez was invited to speak as an expert on international law before the InterAction Council, a group of former heads of governments around the world, as they prepared for their annual conference this month.
Alvarez, who recently stepped down as president of the American Society of International Law, was one of only three U.S.-based international law experts invited to give the former heads of state advice on how best to restore the standing of and compliance with international law.
The council also asked a number of international law experts from Sweden, South Africa, Australia, Germany and Japan to participate in its experts’ session in Hamburg, Germany on June 19. The group was asked to address contemporary challenges facing nation states given growing needs for multilateral legal cooperation on a number of fronts, and especially given concerns over the interplay between the rule of law and the war on terror. Alvarez was the only academic from the United States to attend the session.
The meeting looked at how state sovereignty can be understood today given the requisites of the United Nations Charter and other treaty and customary international law commitments. It focused on whether international law was a constraint or boon to national sovereignty, addressed the reasons why some states fail to comply with their international legal obligations, the interplay between the national and the international rule of law, and ways to improve the level of compliance with international law.
The experts and former heads of state participating in the meeting at Hamburg also addressed the role of intergovernmental organizations, how to organize legal technical assistance in a more efficient and effective way, and the role of the media and business.
Policy recommendations coming out of the June 19 meeting will be concretized at the council’s annual plenary session, which many more of the council’s members attend, to be held later this month in Stockholm, Sweden. The council’s policy recommendations will then be distributed broadly to leaders throughout the world.
The planning meeting that Alvarez attended was chaired by Ingvar Carlsson, the former prime minister of Sweden. Three other former heads of state – Helmut Schmidt, the former chancellor of Germany; Malcolm Fraser, the former prime minister of Australia; and Andreas van Agt, the former prime minister of the Netherlands - also attended.
Alvarez, Columbia’s Hamilton Fish Professor of International Law and Diplomacy, is director of the Law School’s Center on Global Legal Problems. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Law. His principal areas of publishing and teaching are in international law, especially international organizations; international tribunals; war crimes; international legal theory; and foreign investment.
 The InterAction Council was established in 1983 as an independent international organization to mobilize the experience, energy and international contacts of a group of former world leaders to address long-term global issues. Members include former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as former British Prime Minister John Major.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, and criminal law.