Educational and Networking Opportunities in the Hague
by Kelly Vinopal, Director of Library and Information Services American Society of International Law
Early in 2005, plans were well underway for the 7th Hague Joint Conference on Contemporary Issues of International Law, "International Institutional Reform" June 30-July 2, 2005. This event is sponsored by our organization, the American Society of International Law (ASIL), and the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Internationaal Recht (NVIR), the Dutch branch of the International Law Association. ASIL's Executive Director, Charlotte Ku, asked me if I would be available to participate in a preconference program for information professionals. After responding I would be available, it was only later that I realized this meant my actually going to The Hague! What an ideal destination for an international law librarian.
Pre-Conference. The preconference program, Information Sources in an Electronic Age was held at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the National Library of the Netherlands. Among the electronic resources highlighted were the KB e-Depot, ASIL Electronic Resources, the Peace Palace Library's Plinklet link resolver, The Hague Justice Legal Portal, and Legal Intelligence. Attendees were from international court libraries, academic institutions, and publishing houses. The program presentations and the informal exchanges among everyone present provided an opportunity to meet new colleagues, ask further questions, and learn of new perspectives in making electronic information resources available to worldwide audiences.
Conference. The Opening Reception of the Joint Conference was in the Peace Palace "to welcome participants and honor the Centennial of the American Society of International Law (1906-2006)." The Peace Palace is constructed and furnished with a variety of gifts from other nations: the clock in the bell tower is from Switzerland, a fountain from Denmark, and tile work from Delft. The reception was an elegant beginning to the 3-day conference.
The focus of the panel sessions was on the role of international organizations in various settings including regional human rights courts, arbitration tribunals, and post conflict societies. Other panels focused on institutional reform issues in various organizations. Attendees to the Conference came from around the world including the Netherlands, the UK, the Russian Federation, and the U.S. Students and faculty from nearby universities of Leiden, Maasricht, and Utrecht were well-represented. I spoke with several students who scheduled time to observe the Milosevic trial at the International Court of Justice. In preparation for a presentation I would be giving to summer associates in July on ASIL Resources for International Law Research for Practitioners, I also attended a session on ICSID. One of the speakers at this session referred to the Internet as "a great equalizer" in providing access to necessary information and resources.
Library Visits. I also made visits to the libraries at the International Criminal Court and The Peace Palace. Upon my arrival to the ICC, there was a delay to enter the building due to an "emergency" (not unlike the occassional building closures in Washington, DC). The growing physical collection was on several floors. Currently, the library is open to the ICC judges and staff, but in the anticipated new building it is hoped the resources will be open to the public. Students and faculty of The Hague Academy of International Law are among the users of The Peace Palace Library. The new building of the Peace Palace Library is expected to be open later in 2006. In retrospect, the two libraries visited reflect different and historically important resources of international law: a newer developing library and a long established one. Unfortunately, my library touring ended earlier than I had hoped and I could not visit the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia which is located very close to the Peace Palace.
After the panel sessions on the last day of the conference, I took a short tram ride to Delft, a city of canals. Fortunately, The Netherlands is a very easy-to-be-in European city and easy to navigate. Information from International Travel News directed me to reliable sites during my visit. Another useful resource discovered early on is The Hague Legal Capital, a site which includes a centralized listing of organizations and institutions related to international law in The Hague.
Like the educational and networking opportunities offered through professional librarian organizations, my visit to The Hague was an enriching experience. The conference sessions provided closer awareness to leading topics of international law and also increased familiarity with leading scholars and practitioners in the field. This exposure provides an important perspective to the day-to-day and planning work performed at Tillar House.
I look forward to seeing colleagues at the ASIL Annual Meeting on March 29th - April 1st. Please visit our website for further information and also view the timeline of the Society's history, ASIL's 100 Years of International Law.