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On September 3rd 2019, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the UN General Assembly, gave the following speech:

“It is a great pleasure to join you for the Second World Meeting of Societies for International Law – and a privilege indeed to be here with Dame Rosalyn Higgins – first female judge and first female president of the International Court of Justice, as well as so many other distinguished lawyers, female and male.

While I was preparing my remarks, I was looking through my notes on gender representation in the UN system, and I saw that there have been fewer than 10 female members of the International Law Commission in its seven decades of existence. I look at the expertise in this room and think: really, we must do better and I hope that I can count on law societies and associations to advocate for gender equality and representation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are witnessing the rise of nationalist populism and extremist ideologies, as the world becomes more multipolar but also more polarized. We have seen the impact of this trend on hard-won multilateral agreements and institutions: the Paris climate agreement; the global compact on migration; the Human Rights Council, the WTO, arms control instruments – these are just a few examples that I’d like to mention.

We are seeing a growing disconnect between people, governments and institutions. People expect us to keep the promises we have made, through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, for example. But they are losing faith in our capacity to deliver for them. Unless we reverse these trends, we risk damaging the values, principles, laws and systems that have been the bedrock of the international community for more than seven decades. And the irony is that these trends are occurring at precisely the moment when we need global cooperation more than ever.

The Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice were signed at the same time. These two elements – political and legal – form the mutually reinforcing core of our international system. And over the past seven decades, the UN has provided the framework for international laws, norms and mechanisms on everything from the promotion of human rights and gender equality to the regulation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

These frameworks have often proved incredibly successful – the Montreal Protocol, for instance. Or the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Assembly itself plays a vital role in norm development, often serving as both the starting and confirmatory point for declarations and conventions. The Assembly’s processes are not perfect. The debates we have seen over the referral of issues to the ICJ is a prominent example of the difficult nexus between the political and the legal. But it is my firm conviction that the United Nations, and specifically the General Assembly, remains essential to the upholding and development of international law. There is simply no other forum that can match its representativeness and legitimacy.”


Do you agree with the President of the UN General Assembly’s statement?

Choose ONE of the world issues identified in the statement and use FOUR out of the “ten areas of study” outlined by Paul Schiff Berman (week 1) to argue whether or not you agree. 

Pease refer to course readings when answering your question and rely on at least 2 external sources when writing your essay. 

8-10 pages (excluding references)