Earlier this month, Professor Ronald Allen was awarded the 2014 China Friendship Award. Ron recently returned from the award ceremony in Beijing, where he and his fellow award recipients were well and justly celebrated—they met with the Prime Minister and Vice-Prime Minister, and they were invited by the President to attend a state dinner celebrating the 65th Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Ron was also the guest of honor at a publication party for his book, Professor Allen on Evidence.
While he was in Beijing he also met with members of the Supreme People’s Court to discuss the ongoing efforts to develop a modern universal evidence code for the People’s Republic of China.
Ron is the Chair of the Foreign Board of Advisors of the Evidence Law and Forensic Sciences Institute at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. He is also the sole non-Chinese advisor to the National Research Project on the Law of Evidence, an initiative conducted at the behest of the Supreme People’s Court as part of the effort to reform that country’s evidentiary rules. Ron has been working with the Chinese on this for nearly fifteen years. In January, he will return to China for a working session with the committee—on which, interestingly, a number of Ron’s former students also serve—to comment on the current draft of the reform document.
In November, Ron will host an important conference here at Northwestern Law, “The Foundations of the Law of Evidence and their Implications for Developing Countries,” at which legal scholars and prominent law reformers from around the world—notably from China and Tanzania—will discuss the process by which developing countries adapt, adopt, and evolve their legal systems. Based solely on the list of participating scholars, I am confident that the discussions will have real and meaningful effects worldwide.
Thanks to Ron for his many contributions to Northwestern Law, and to the larger world.
There are lots of reasons to encourage students to work and study abroad. I’ve discussed why I think this is important, as well as some of Northwestern Law’s international initiatives, on this blog. Today I encourage you to read my colleague Juliet Sorenson’s thoughts on this subject: The University as Global Citizen, published earlier this week on the Health and Human Rights blog.
Juliet and an interdisciplinary group of students—from the School of Law, Feinberg School of Medicine, and Kellogg School of Management—left yesterday to travel to Douentza, Mali, as part of the Access to Health program. Students in her Health and Human Rights class have spent this semester researching health needs and issues in Mali in preparation for this trip. Once in Douentza, they will work closely with health care providers and community leaders to develop and implement a meaningful, sustainable health intervention specifically for that community.
The Access to Health trip is one example of the type of international human rights projects Northwestern students will undertake during Spring Break. International Team Projects is another: under the supervision of a faculty sponsor, law students travel abroad to conduct research on topics of their choosing. The students work in teams to develop the research topic; prepare advance materials including extensive briefing materials on the country’s history, culture, and legal and political systems; and plan the logistics of field work. Once in country they interview government officials, legal scholars, policy makers, and business and civic leaders, and conduct other fact-gathering as required by the research scope.
This year teams will travel to Cuba, Chile/Argentina, Myanmar/Thailand, and South Africa, to explore questions including Constitutional rights to housing, human rights in the mining industry, foreign direct investment and entrepreneurship, banking, freedom of expression in journalism and filmmaking, and environmental issues.
These are excellent examples of the type of global experiential learning Juliet writes about, and they illustrate the role Universities can play in improving the lives of people around the world. It is, as she says, quoting John Masefield, “…one of the things that makes a University beautiful.”
Alejandro De Aza, leadoff hitter and centerfielder for the Chicago White Sox, helped promote Northwestern University’s Access to Health project with a message to his hometown of Guaymate, Dominican Republic. His 90-second video announcement encouraging a healthy lifestyle debuted at a community health fair held on Guaymate’s baseball fields March 1, 2014. The Access to Health team is working with healthcare practitioners at Guaymate Hospital on a long-term quality improvement project, which evolved from the team’s need assessment following a site visit to Guaymate last spring.
Juliet Sorensen, clinical assistant professor of law in the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern Law, along with colleagues at the Center for Global Health at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, founded the project to leverage their research and clinical expertise in partnership with a community in the developing world to conduct a multidisciplinary needs assessment of that community. Once the team identifies a community, its needs are assessed and, based on the results of that study, both the team and the community identify and implement a sustainable, capacity-building intervention. Northwestern law, business, medical, and public health students in Sorensen’s “Health and Human Rights” class work in interdisciplinary groups on various aspects of the needs assessment, while also taking advantage of the expertise of the University’s engineering faculty to design health projects in the developing countries. Later this month, a team will travel to Mali to work with people there to build health care capacity as the country emerges from civil conflict.
Access to Health is a terrific project, one that demonstrates the power of interdisciplinary work. Bringing people with different skills and training together to work on teams is a very effective way to solve problems, and the experience helps our students become better lawyers. Good luck to Juliet and her students on their trip to Mali!
Professor Tom Geraghty’s work in Ethiopia is well known, but his energies and enthusiasms are not limited only to that country. Last fall, he led a group of law students to Bangladesh, where they worked on an interesting new project called a “Justice Audit.” The audit gathers data about a country’s criminal justice system to create a tool that citizens can use to deeply understand “…how the justice process works, the points of system pressure and associated challenges, as well as opportunities to apply good practices to solve problems.”
Katherine Klein, a student who worked on this audit, wrote an interesting report about her experiences, which I am happy to share with you here:
“During the fall semester 2013 I was one of four students selected to participate in an intensive senior research project supervised by Professor Geraghty. As a team of five representing Northwestern Law School, we were participating in the second ever Justice Audit conducted by an international legal consulting firm, the Governance and Justice Group, based in Portugal.
A Justice Audit is an intensive, data-rich study of the major justice-seeking institutions in a country, including the courts, legal aid providers, police, prisons, and prosecutors. The Justice Audit methodology, designed by the Governance and Justice Group, gathers statistical information on the flow of cases and individuals through a justice system, to show governments and policy makers what is happening at any given time. It is hoped that governments and policy makers will use the data as a catalyst for changes they see necessary in their own system.
In addition to gathering institutional data, the Justice Audit included practitioner surveys of many personnel such as judges, police officials, and detainees, as well as a 6,000-person survey to gauge citizen perceptions of their options for seeking justice and resolving disputes.
As participants in the Justice Audit methodology—the first ever with both student and academician participants—none of us knew what to expect. From workload, to in-country fieldwork in Bangladesh, everything was abstract and always a moving target.
At the outset of the semester we began an intensive desk review phase to learn as much as possible about the legal landscape in the country before arriving. The desk review was fascinating. Pouring over Bangladeshi statutes forced us to ask critical questions about the components of a functioning and efficient legal system. Such a critical, intimate look into another legal system is a rare opportunity in legal education.
As the political situation heated up, and eventually began to boil over in Bangladesh, our departure for five weeks of fieldwork was delayed. Although everyone was disappointed at the delay, the desk review continued, which was probably for the better as it was such a large task. The delay, much like the eventual time in Dhaka, was a good lesson in the realities of international legal consulting work. One moment, things are calm and itineraries are set, only to be cancelled the next.
Despite the numerous cancellations and security restrictions placed on the Justice Audit team as a whole, we eventually all managed to make it to Dhaka to work together. With consultants participating from all across the globe (Brooklyn, Chicago, Islamabad, London, the Maldives, and Portugal) the ability to all sit in one time zone and work side by side was invaluable, and a relief to everyone’s sleep schedule.
Security concerns were high the entire time we were in Dhaka, so we did not spend much time outside of the office. The opportunity to do fieldwork and to learn more about Bangladeshi culture was regrettably missed, but the ability to see data flow in from all the sectors of the justice institutions, and to think critically about the story that data tells was a fascinating experience. It made me really stop and think about the role each discrete institution plays in a larger system, and the impact that system can have on the lives of individual citizens. As can be seen by the statistics emerging in Bangladesh, a poorly functioning system leaves citizens with few places to turn to seek justice and dispute resolution.
Bangladesh is fraught with the challenges of development. The population is massive; the legal system is archaic, and slow. Formal dispute resolution is hard to attain for anyone unable to pay exorbitant fees. And yet around every corner, we were able to draw analogies to parts of the American legal system that suffer similar frustrations.
We as students learned to view laws and legal proceedings through a more critical lens. The mentorship we received during the project from Professor Geraghty and our international colleagues was phenomenal. The project might not have taken shape quite as we expected, but the shape it did eventually take was abundantly educational.”
Students and faculty at Northwestern Law are engaged in a multitude of international endeavors. The number and scope of these projects is nothing short of remarkable: global health, international justice tribunals, comparative constitutionalism, to name only a few. In the coming weeks and months I will report on some of these undertakings here on my blog—stay tuned!