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Professor Koh inaugurates new GCSP series ‘Security and Law: A Reality Check’

A new event series on Security and Law launched at the GCSP

On 14 March, GCSP’s Security and Law Programme launched a new event series, Security and Law: A Reality Check.

‘The purpose of the Reality Check series is to address how international law matters in security affairs. The aim is 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,’ declared Tobias Vestner, Cluster Leader of the Security and Law Programme and moderator of the debate.

For the inaugural event, GCSP had the honour of welcoming Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School and former Legal Adviser to the State Department in the Obama Administration. In Europe for the first time, Professor Koh gave an address on ‘The Trump Administration and International Law: A Counter-Strategy,’ which anticipated his forthcoming book (Oxford University Press, September 2018).

Professor Koh argued that the Trump Administration is critically undermining the capacity of the United States to uphold their international obligations. In his speech, he provided factual evidence of the several attempts already conducted by the U.S. Government against international law. These affect human rights, cybersecurity and foreign policy, relations with Russia and conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. Yet, according to Professor Koh, nothing is definitively compromised: 'Tweets are not Executive Orders,' he said, and inferred that the traditional role of the United States in international law cannot be changed by one man only. 'Despite all the ‘fire and fury’ the main alternative remains smart power:' lawyers, and civil society as a whole, have the tools to trigger interactions, to push correct interpretations of the law and to make sure those interpretations are internalised in the policies of the government.

The public discussion saw a remarkable turnout, with approximately a hundred participants who engaged in a dynamic question and answer period at the end of the talk. The engagement with, and among, the guests is essential to the new format of the Reality Check series: those attending the event are encouraged to steer the debate by challenging the speakers and experts.

Do not miss our next event: at 12:30 on 3 May 2018 we will conduct a Reality Check with the new Leuven Manual on the International Law Applicable to Peace Operations, trying to answer the question: ‘Does Law Contribute to Peace Operations' Success?’.

Join the debate. Join the Reality Check.