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Keynote lecture: Making International Law Work

'Making International Law Work' was the topic of the keynote lecture given to celebrate the establishment of the Arthur Watts Senior Research Fellowship in Public International Law. The Fellowship was established by the British Institute of International and Comparative Law to honour Sir Arthur Watts and to reflect the special focus he had on the practical application of public international law.

The lecture was drafted by Professor Vaughan Lowe QC, Emeritus Chichele Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford, and Barrister at Essex Court Chambers, though delivered by Professor Colin Warbrick, after Professor Lowe was unable to attend at the last moment.

The lecture focused on translating abstract legal principles into practical realities, in making public international law work - that is, not being content with inscribing rules in the canon of public international law but trying to ensure that the rules are made effective. The lecture considered augmentation in the form of new institutions, such as the ICC, or new procedures, such as the increasing number of procedures under which individuals have access to international bodies in relation to complaints that they have been treated in a manner contrary to international law, part of the continuing development of this law.

The event was chaired by Dame Rosalyn Higgins DBE QC, President of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, brought together 80 distinguished guests with expertise in public international law. Sir Franklin Berman KCMG QC, Chairman of the Watts Appeal and Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Institute, welcomed guests and provided an overview of the appeal fund and the ambition to obtain further funding to enable the Institute to endow the Watts Fellowship for the foreseeable future.

Jill Barrett, the inaugural Watts Fellow, delivered a welcome address and regaled the audience with tales of Sir Arthur, a senior colleague and mentor, so widely admired and respected in the legal community. Providing an overview of the Watts programme, Jill said: "The primary aim is to combine clear conceptual analysis with knowledge of how international law works in practice. For example, there is a current project undertaking training and research on treaty practice in collaboration with the Centre for International Law at the University of Singapore. Our joint aim is to formulate universal criteria for good treaty practice that can be used by any states and international organizations, and to illustrate them with a wide range of examples from around the world. We hope that when we publish our conclusions this will be of practical benefit to those who deal with treaties. The second project concerns governance and jurisdiction in the continent of Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty is a subject that has fascinated many international lawyers."

Speaking after the event, Professor Robert McCorquodale, Director of the Institute, said: "We are proud to have been able to establish a Fellowship in Sir Arthur's memory and to continue the excellent work that the Institute does in undertaking applied international legal research and activities. As the Institute receives no core funding from any body, this Fellowship has only been made possible by the generosity of a number of leading international lawyers and some governments."

Public international law has been at the centre of the Institute's activity since its inception, and continues to occupy a vital and essential role nationally and internationally. The Institute aims, through its high quality applied research, the organization of events on contemporary issues, and its respected publications, to remain at the forefront of a wide range of issues in the field of public international law, in addition to its other fields of expertise.

Further details about the work of the Institute are available at:

The inauguration event was supported and hosted by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Image caption: (l-r) Sir Franklin Berman KCMG QC, Cecilia A. Gillett, Dame Rosalyn Higgins DBE FBA QC, Jill Barrett, Lady Iris Watts, Professor Colin Warbrick

Links: Article in Global Arbitration Review

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