George W. Alexandrowicz, professor of law at Queen’s University’s Faculty of Law delivered the 2006 Annual Jean-Gabriel Castel Lecture at Glendon on February 6th. Under the title "Developments in Global Governance", Alexandrowicz explored the issues addressed, as well as those not addressed, in the "Outcome Document" adopted by the UN in the fall of 2005.
Alexandrowicz was introduced by professor Stanislav Kirschbaum of Glendon’s International Studies Department as a lifelong friend since childhood. Kirschbaum drew parallels between their formative experiences as post-war immigrants from Central Europe, sharing the same early educational paths and the same vocation as university professors.
From left to right: George Alexandrowicz, Glendon principal Kenneth McRoberts, Jean-Gabriel Castel, Stanislav Kirschbaum and Michael Barutciski at the Castel Lecture at Glendon
In turn, Alexandrowicz paid tribute to Jean-Gabriel Castel, who was in attendance at the lecture. Calling him “a pioneer in the study of international law in Canada and a ‘gem’ among us”, Alexandrowicz declared it a great honour to be chosen to deliver this lecture. He also praised Glendon for recognizing the importance of studying international law, further demonstrated by the recent hiring, into the International Studies Department, of professor Michael Barutciski, a jurist and a specialist in this area, and a co-host of this lecture.
Alexandrowicz discussed some of the major challenges confronting the UN today and outlined the steps leading up to the UN General Assembly’s “Final Document on World Security”, known as the “Outcome Document”, conceived to mark this organization’s 60th anniversary last fall. The document focused on world security, human rights and, in particular, the prevention of acts of catastrophic terrorism and chemical warfare. While all parties agreed on the urgent need to address these problems, the discussions revealed a lack of will among world leaders to commit to meeting this need in concrete ways.
Alexandrowicz provided a brief overview of the UN’s history and of recent humanitarian disasters: the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Kosovo’s ethnic cleansing in 1999, the events of September 11, 2001 in New York, and the 2004 genocide in Darfour. Recognizing that the organization needed a major renewal, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan convoked distinguished public figures in 2004 with the aim of developing this “World Outcome Document” for the UN’s 60th anniversary on September 16, 2005.
But Resolution 60/1 - as it became known - on the subject of peace and security, “was a very watered-down document, a missed opportunity for dealing with these pressing world issues”, said Alexandrowicz. Of the numerous obstacles in the way of its success, the speaker provided two examples. One was the impossibility of arriving at a comprehensive convention to criminalize terrorism, as long as an adequate definition of terrorism did not exist. The second example involved the right of individuals and groups to fight against oppression – currently determined case by case, depending on the “players” involved, and very much influenced by the world community’s view of who the oppressed and who the oppressors are.
Alexandrowicz also examined the use of force, and the contexts in which it was deemed legitimate. He pointed to varying past responses from the UN Security Council, depending on the originators of urgent requests. He added that while pre-emptive use of force might have prevented major human disasters in recent history, it was not clear in which situations pre-emptive force was considered legal and whether failure to act was a crime.
Although the “Outcome Document” strongly condemned all forms of terrorism and stressed the need to define it, it succeeded only in recommending the organizing of a high-level conference to discuss it. Further, the document did not deal with the issues of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, nor did it address what Alexandrowicz called today’s other major threat of potentially world-wide epidemics. “These threats are without borders and highly dangerous to the entire world. As a consequence, global governance has become much more of a necessity”, said Alexandrowicz. He added that, as so many times in the past, the short-term parochial interests of individual member states overrode long-term global interests. He pointed to the U.S. as one of the biggest culprits in this area, sabotaging a great opportunity for progress toward global governance.
Alexandrowicz outlined ideas for the UN’s structural reform, to improve its success in administering laws and help in maintaining world peace. These changes, some of which are already under consideration, include revamping the composition of the Security Council, and reviewing its legitimacy and authority. A proposal requiring justification by Council members for their use of the veto is also on the table.
Alexandrowicz concluded by stating that “an opportunity was missed, when conditions were appropriate for clarifying current laws and making the world a safer place. We must now renew our efforts to revisit these processes. But although we missed this chance to take stock and reform, [I think that] fundamentally the UN is an organization of great importance that still works”.
During the ensuing question period, professor Castel declared taking a very pessimistic view, himself, of the future of the UN. “In my opinion, [the UN] is on the road to obsolescence, because it is unable to reform itself to conform to current needs.”
More About George W. Alexandrowicz:
George W. Alexandrowicz holds a law degree from the University of Toronto (LL.B. 1964,) an M.A. (1966, University of Toronto); and an LL.M. (1967, Harvard). He was admitted to the bar in 1966 and completed an internship at the U.N. in 1969. Professor Alexandrowicz has lectured on international law at various universities around the world including the United States, China, and India. He was also involved in international law policy with the Canadian Ministry of the Environment and was a member of the Canadian, American, and Mexican Bar Associations’ Joint Committee on Dispute Settlement. Professor Alexandrowicz has been teaching law at Queen’s University for 38 years, offering courses in public international law, the law of the sea, and international environmental law, as well as in the area of private law.
More about Jean-Gabriel Castel and the Annual Jean-Gabriel Castel Lecture:
Jean-Gabriel Castel Q.C. is a distinguished senior scholar and research professor emeritus at York's Osgoode Hall Law School, as well as a lecturer of international law at Glendon. He is an author, international arbitrator, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Castel was the recipient of the David W. Mundell Medal for Excellence in Legal Writing in 2004. One of the first foreign Fulbright scholars, he studied at Harvard Law School where he obtained a Doctorate in Law.
In his 51 years of teaching, 46 of which took place at Osgoode Hall Law School and, in part, at York's Glendon College, Castel has authored dozens of books and treatises in English and French, and over a hundred scholarly articles. He also served as editor-in-chief of the Canadian Bar Review for 27 years. Castel is a Member of the Royal Society, an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier of the French Légion d'honneur.
Located at Glendon, the Annual Jean-Gabriel Castel Lecture offers an opportunity to examine major legal issues of general concern. It was established in 2005 to honour this great legal mind, with Castel himself as the first lecturer on February 9th of the same year. The subject of his lecture was “The Legality of Unilateral Armed Intervention”, in which he questioned whether international law was evolving in the right direction in the current age of terror, neo-imperialism, and gross violations of human rights.
This article was submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny