Geneva: Reflections on a Study Trip to International Legal Institutions

The Faculty of Law of the University of Vienna organized a two day study trip to Geneva in order to introduce the international legal institutions discussed in many of the program’s courses. The trip was arranged by Professor Friedl Weiss, a faculty member of Vienna’s LL.M. in International Legal Studies. Professor Weiss provided interesting insights during the trip concerning international law in general and international economic law in particular. During the trip students realized how some of the growing problems facing individual nation states – problems which had previously been discussed in the program’s courses – are being addressed by multilateral institutions, including the numerous institutions located in Geneva.

One of the main highlights of the trip was a meeting with Ms. Mina Mashayekhi, Head of Trade Negotiations and Commercial Diplomacy Branch for United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Moreover, a meeting and discussion with Mr. Moritz Ewert, a specialist at UNCTAD, regarding the organization and UNCTAD XII, the conference’s twelfth session, were of great interest and provided insight into the intergovernmental deliberations currently taking place amongst government representatives and the technical assistance which is being provided to developing countries in order to increase development. The fact that these meetings took place in the Palais des Nations, the building previously occupied by the League of Nations, only made them and the discussion which took place more interesting.

Students were also able to attend a session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). It was very interesting for us to witness not only the session of the HRC, but also the reports which the special rapporteurs presented on issues relating to their mandates. One of the rapporteurs who presented his report was Professor Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and a faculty member of the LL.M. in International Legal Studies. Prior to meeting the HRC, Professor Nowak briefed us on his work for the United Nations, including his many on-site visits in countries where torture is suspected to take place.

Last, but by no means least, was a visit to the World Trade Organization (WTO), where students were able to attend meetings concerning various issues relating to international trade, the work of the WTO’s Secretariat and the work of the WTO’s Appellate Body Secretariat. One of those meetings was with Mr. Werner Zdouc, Director of the WTO Appellate Body Secretariat. His comments on the day-to-day business of the Appellate Body were of great interest. In addition, students got the opportunity to meet Mr. Giorgio Sacerdoti, a professor at Bocconi University and a member of the WTO’s Appellate Body. Students were able to pose questions relating to general issues of WTO law and the possible development of these issues during the DOHA Development Round, including the potential review of the dispute settlement system. This part of the visit to the WTO was extremely rewarding as the students were able to ask a member of the Appellate Body, who as an important part of the dispute settlement system, serves to preserve the rights and obligations of WTO‘s members and to clarify the agreements establishing the world’s multilateral trading system.

Finnur Magnusson (LL.M. class of 2007/08)