Represented by Julia Bernhardt and Juliane Mendelsohn
To attend a conference on the enforcement of a not yet fully existent definition of Unilateral Acts of States felt much like being thrown into deep water and asked to swim. And the more we swam, the murkier the water got.
Already in the preparation process, we discovered that most states do not have a precise stand on the topic – including the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. As it is among the Least Developed Countries (LCDs), it understandably prefers to focus on more vital matters, such as fighting hunger and diseases. So, how could we succeed in a task the International Law Commission has been working on for over ten years without achieving satisfying results?
Our subcommittee’s task was to find ways to enforce or guarantee the compliance with the terms of the conventions we were about to draft. Over the course of its brief history as an independent state, Bangladesh has been and continues to be a victim to various harmful unilateral acts, for example India draining off water of the Ganges River, so that we could use this as an analytic criterion in order to estimate favourable enforcements, sanctions and methods of monitoring states compliance with the ‘treaty’.
Concerning monitoring, we chose multilateral solutions, opting for global and regional cooperation and were willing to lay our trust in Non Governmental Organizations. Many of them are represented in Bangladesh.
When considering sanctions, an independent arbitrational tribunal, setting up a system of monetary damages and cooperation with the Security Council was a suitable measure. Lastly, though, the most important organ to take into account was of course the International Court of Justice. We realized that it has the means and the competence to best act in the interests of its parties and that its jurisdiction could be imposed, quite simply, by the mere inclusions of a jurisdictional clause in the treaty.
All in all, we mastered to harmonize our ideas with the interests of our neighbors and other developing states and thereby assured the inclusion of rapid countermeasures against unilateral acts in the treaty. Moreover, we agreed that third states could take steps against unilateral acts to the extend in which they were concerned.
On arrival at the conference, we were unsure of what to expect. It was a tough and terribly complex topic for a debate. Were we about to talk with the super-jurists; was there a chance for a fruitful debate? In retrospect both questions could probably be answered with a ‘no’, we were adequately prepared though the challenge remained large. Confusion seemed to sweep through the entire conference, but lastly there were certain efforts that pertained to brilliance but not always to consensus.
We learned to listen to suggestion that were far from our own ideas, we learned to mediate and bring together ideas. We faced the challenges of international diplomacy, i.e. trying to explain ones own complex ideas when other states want to hear nothing else than what speaks in favor of their own interests and suggestion.
An experience that was hard, complex, challenging, not to say bitter at times, but in retrospect we believe it was an experience unlike any other, an eye-opening one, from which we gained much knowledge about matters that reach far beyond the topic and hence an experience that will stay with us and aid us, more than any superb treaty could ever do.