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International law and Italian State practice: a new site with English translations

Dr Julinda Beqiraj, a Research Fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, is a translator on a new Italian project that looks at Italian diplomatic and state practice.

The diplomatic and parliamentary practice of States is fundamental in shaping international law. However, because practice is mostly conducted in a State's own language, it can be very difficult for scholars, practitioners and others to navigate and ascertain the broad array of State practice declarations and statements that defines governmental positions on specific issues of international law.

To address these difficulties, a new website - http://italyspractice.info/ - aims to provide non-Italian speakers with easy access to the Italian Government's parliamentary and diplomatic statements on issues of international law. The searchable database provides English translations of the most significant excerpts of governmental declarations, identified by topic-based titles and introduced by a short summary of their content, and links to official documents are provided where available. The site is run by the International Law group at the Law School at the University of Trento. Translations are provided by scholars based in Italy and abroad.

Translations of diplomatic and parliamentary practice are vital for accountability of government, which is itself a cornerstone of the rule of law, democracy and good governance. Accountability requires that government actions and decisions are subject to oversight so as to meet their stated objectives and respond to the needs of the community. For modern States accountability is not limited to the domestic dimension of constitutional checks on the power of the executive, generally enacted by parliaments; it also encompasses the obligation for governments to provide information about their decisions and actions that have an international impact and to justify them in the context of inter-State cooperation within international organizations.

Directly relevant to these issues, Italy's Practice gathers and translates a range of material affecting the identification and application of both customary and treaty-based international law. Recent posts include:

• excerpts of the statements by the Prime Minister relating to the Italian Presidency of the EU Council;

• remarks by the Italian representative at the Human Rights Council on the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Italy;

• comments of the Minister of Labour and Social Policies on the rights of persons with disabilities;

• the position of the Minister of Defence on the compatibility of the storage of nuclear weapons on the Italian territory with the obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, etc.

The database covers Italian governmental practice starting from 2011.

This initiative is both part and evidence of the strides being taken to promote accessibility, transparency and broader knowledge of State practice on international law issues as tools for building a society-driven accountability that relies on civic engagement.

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