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Law in Practice

Assembling the first archive of international law practice in the Arab world

THOMAS SKOUTERIS
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AND CHAIR
DEPARTMENT OF LAW
DIRECTOR, IBRAHIM SHEHATA MEMORIAL
LLM PROGRAM IN INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE LAW

Assembling the first archive of international law practice in the Arab world

The Inspiration

“State practice” is of great significance for international law. It refers to “what states do” in the field of international law. It includes treaties, court decisions, legislation, diplomatic practice — the list is quite long. Knowing “what states do” is of tremendous importance for the study of customary international law and for policymaking, but also for understanding the discipline in a cross-cultural perspective. Throughout the centuries, the Arab world became the focal point of many developments in international law and politics. At the same time, our knowledge of the practice of Arab states remains fragmented. This is because, unlike other parts of the world, it has never been systematically studied. The purpose of this project is to remedy this gap. We’ll collect, classify, summarize and annotate documents relating to state practice in the Arab world, and make it accessible to a global audience.

The Process

The everyday work is truly exciting. First, there is the conceptual task of organizing the practice of international law across 22 countries into categories and fields. Then, there is the Herculean task of discovering relevant data among the sea of available public documents. Third, there is the scientific work of selecting, annotating, characterizing, connecting and analyzing information. Then, there are the many pleasures and challenges of teamwork.

The Next Steps

The Next Steps During the first year, we are focusing on setting up a database for the organization of information, testing our operating procedures and focusing on the study of limited aspects of the practice. During the following two years, we will focus exclusively on the collection and processing of data across 22 Arab states. We now have a team of 10 — AUC faculty, students, alumni and external collaborators — which will grow and diversify as we proceed.

The Future

AUC is the natural environment for this project. Aside from our location, our faculty, students and alumni have expertise that is hard to match. This project, together with others that are currently in progress, is part of an unfolding multi-pronged strategy to affirm the position of AUC’s Department of Law as a leading academic hub in the Arab world.

The IMPACT

Once the work is done, the professional community in the region and globally (governments, legal advisers, academics, law firms, international organizations and NGOs) will be able, with the click of a mouse, to access much-needed information in English and Arabic. This will be empowering for Arab states and Arab international lawyers. One of the reasons (alas, not the main one!) why the discipline is currently so Eurocentric and the Arab world so misrepresented is the lack of access to information.

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