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The Trump Administration and International Law: A Counter-Strategy

A Reality Check with Professor Harold Hongju Koh

The Muslim Ban. The endorsement of torture as interrogation technique. The announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The threatened withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal. The strike on an airbase controlled by the Syrian government. The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. According to Harold Koh, all these decisions show two common features. First, they bear the signature of the same person: Incumbent U.S. President Trump. Second, they not only considerably deviate from the established role played by the Unites States in foreign policy: They could also critically undermine the U.S. capacity to uphold their international obligations.

Harold Hongju Koh is Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School and has served four years as the Legal Adviser to the State Department in the Obama administration. While worried about the potential disruptive effect of the Trump administration on international law, he strongly advocates that there is margin for an effective counter-strategy. This discussion, based on his forthcoming book “The Trump Administration and International Law” (Oxford University Press, September 2018), indicates what is at stake and where the resistance starts.

Join the debate. Join the Reality Check.



Tobias Vestner, Security and Law Programme, GCSP



Date and time: Wednesday, 14 March 2018 12:30 – 14:00.

Meal: Light lunch will be provided before the beginning of the event



Harold Hongju Koh is Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School, where he returned in January 2013 after serving for nearly four years as the 22nd Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State, service for which he received the Secretary of State's Distinguished Service Award. He first began teaching at Yale Law School in 1985 and was its fifteenth Dean from 2004 until 2009. He also served from 1998 to 2001 as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Professor Koh has received seventeen honorary degrees and more than thirty awards for his human rights work. He has authored or co-authored eight books and published more than 200 articles. He holds a B.A. degree from Harvard College and B.A. and M.A. degrees from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar. He earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was Developments Editor of the Harvard Law Review. Read more.



With this event, GCSP launches Security and Law: A Reality Check, the new event series to address how international law matters in security affairs. It aims to critically assess if current norms fit contemporary and future security challenges, how international commitments can effectively be implemented, and how new international law can successfully be shaped. Reality Checks feature a new GCSP format: The audience attending the event is encouraged to steer the discussion by challenging the speakers and experts. Join the debate. Join the Reality Check.

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GCSP Room P4-444, Maison de la paix, Pétale 4, Chemin Eugéne-Rigot 2D, Genève

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