ASIAN-AFRICAN LEGAL CONSULTATIVE ORGANIZATION (AALCO)
Centre for Research and Training
The Centre for Research and Training (hereafter CRT), presently functioning in the Secretariat of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation, evolved from the “Data Collection Unit,” which was established in 1989. As per paragraph 2 of the Resolution 40/ORG.4 the Data Collection Unit was renamed to the Center for Research and Training in 2001. This marked, as envisaged, a new chapter in the efforts of the Member States towards undertaking research activities, as well as training programmes, within the AALCO.
The initial mandate entrusted to the Unit was collection and dissemination of information related only to international economic and trade instruments and legislations from the Member States of the AALCO. However, pursuant to Resolution 38/ORG.6 adopted in Accra, 1999, the Member States emphasized the need for and significance of exchange of information between the Organisation, the United Nations and its agencies and other international bodies. It is pertinent to note that the said resolution did not confine the activities of the Unit to the economic and trade law matters, but gave enough flexibility to expand the mandate of the Unit to all the areas of activities of the AALCO.
Initially, activities of the Unit were confined to collect and collate information on international economic and trade instruments and legislations of the Member States. However, vide Resolution 38/ORG.6 adopted at the 38th Session held in Accra in 1999, the Member States envisaged the Unit to expand its activities to the entire gamut of the substantive activities of the AALCO, including research and dissemination of information. Also, to keep a pace with the technological advancements, the Organization called for the establishment of the AALCO’s website and web-mail.
Further, transforming the Data Collection Unit into CRT in 2001 reoriented the functioning of the Center. Meetings of the Advisory Panel of Liaison Officers suggested following future engagements for the Center: training programmes for personnel belonging to Legal Department of AALCO’s Member States, especially relating to international law; convening workshops and seminars on topics of contemporary relevance; arranging discussions or lectures by the international law experts from within and outside the AALCO region. The mandate was further strengthened at the Seoul Session, 2003 whereby the CRT was called upon to: (i) continue to update and improve the technical efficiency of the website for facilitating communication between the Secretariat, the Member States, the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies, and other international organizations; and (ii) foster capacity-building of the Center to carry out further research projects on international law and organize training programmes for the benefit of nationals of Member States handling international law issues.
Since its inception, the Center has made several concerted efforts to contribute substantially to the activities of AALCO. This report briefly outlines the measures taken and efforts made by the CRT since the 42nd Session of AALCO in furtherance of its mandate and for the effective functioning of the Center.
ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN BY THE CENTER
A. Holding of Seminars/Workshops
Pursuant to the Resolution 41/3, the CRT organized a two-day seminar on “Strengthening Refugee Protection in Migratory Movements” jointly with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from 17 to 18 September 2003, New Delhi. The seminar addressed one of the central issues and challenges of the international refugee protection, viz. migration-refugee law interface. Mrs. Deepa Wadhwa, Joint Secretary, UN Department, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India inaugurated the Seminar and emphasized the contemporary relevance of the issue of migration and refugee protection in view of the fact that asylum seekers and refugees constitute only roughly ten percent of global migratory movements and that these two groups are required to be distinguished under international law for the purposes of providing international protection. Amb. Dr. Wafik Zaher Kamil, Secretary-General AALCO, Mr. Wilbert Van Hovell, Deputy Director Department of International Protection, UNHCR Headquarters Geneva, Mr. Lennart Kotsalainen and Chief of Mission UNHCR New Delhi were present at the meeting as distinguished guests. Delegates from various countries participated in the Seminar, some of them being: H.E. Dr. Iskandar Ghattas, Assistant Minister of Justice and Cultural Affairs (Arab Republic of Egypt), Mr. Mwaliko, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (Kenya), Ms. Caroline J. Mchome, Legal Advisor, Ministry of Home Affairs (Tanzania), Prof. C. Beyani, London School of Economics, Prof. M. Lama, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Dr. Ijaz Hussain, Dean, Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad (Pakistan).
Additionally, another highlight of the seminar was that, for the first time, the Arabic translation was made available during an inter-sessional meeting, encouraging the participation of more Arab member States. The seminar was marked by lively discussion amongst the participants which included members of the diplomatic corps, academicians and officials from UNHCR.
The CRT is willing and sufficiently equipped to further organize such seminars and workshops on the topical issues, in association with other specialized Organizations. The CRT welcomes specific instructions and suggestions from the Member States.
Upgrading of the AALCO’s website
In pursuance of the mandate assigned to the CRT, the Secretariat has, since the last Session, made concerted efforts towards modifying and improving the website of AALCO in order to make it more user-friendly, interactive and informative. The homepage of the AALCO’s website has been further upgraded to include useful links, viz.: (i) the web links of the Ministries and other official websites of other AALCO Member States not included so far. As of now the Secretariat has made further attempts to add the web links of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Ministries of Law & Justice and the Apex Judicial Bodies of the Member States. It enables the user to browse and access the information relating to the respective Member State; (ii) a link, ‘Legal Study Guide’ has been created, subject to further additions and upgradations, which provides further information relating to the topics on the Work Programme of the AALCO, such as legal instruments at both international and regional level as well as useful advance research electronic links. It serves as a portal for research on selected topics. At present an attempt has been made to establish research links regarding the following topics identified as contemporarily relevant: International Terrorism, International Human Rights Law, International Trade Law, International Environmental Law, Jurisdictional Immunity, International Criminal Court and Anti-Corruption.
In this regard, the CRT invites further suggestions, proposals and feedback from the Member States with respect to the present and future endeavours to be undertaken by the Center for the modification and upgrading of the AALCO’s website.
FUTURE ENDEAVORS ENVISAGED
The CRT proposes to, hitherto, undertake three publications, viz. Yearbook of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation, Quarterly Bulletin of Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation and a Newsletter, with a view to facilitating in-depth studies of the topics on the Work Programme of the AALCO, reflecting all the activities undertaken by the Secretariat in implementing and fulfilling the mandate of the Member States and strengthening the cooperation between the Secretariat and the Member States. It may be noted that the said Yearbook and Quarterly Bulletin has been registered and assigned provisional International Standard Serial Number (ISSN). The CRT requests the suggestions and instructions from the Member States in this regard.
B. Organizing Training Programmes:
One of the primary and key objectives of the Center, as stipulated in Resolution 40/ORG.4, is organizing training of officials from the Member States engaged in international law issues. It may be recalled that the Meeting of the Advisory Panel of Liaison Officers suggested, among other future activities of the Center, training programmes for personnel belonging to Legal Department of AALCO’s Member States. It may be noted here that in order to effectively undertake training programmes, AALCO had inter alia entered into Cooperation Agreements with the United Nations Training Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the United Nations University (UNU). Also, the Organization is making further efforts towards building associations with a number of research institutes in India engaged in research and teaching in International Law, such as Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University and the Indian Society of International law.
It is pertinent to mention herein that the plans are underway to draw wider participation of officials from other Member States for any such programmes. However, it may be considered that impending completion of the new Headquarters’ building would facilitate the fulfillment of this objective in a more meaningful manner. The availability of permanent and modern paraphernalia and infrastructure, in terms of Seminar and Conference Rooms with modern presentation facilities and equipments and provision for suitable accommodation for trainees, would enable and ensure the Center to regularly organize such training programmes.
It may be recalled that the Center received proposals from the Government of Sudan to train its Officials. The modalities of organizing such a training programme is being worked out and it is planned to expand this programme so that a wider participation of officials from other Member States could be ensured. The Center welcomes that the Member States may also suggest the topics of common interest as well provide necessary directions for conducting training programmes. Also, Training Programmes could be organized in collaboration with the Member States and the CRT.
Undertaking In-depth Research Studies:
The CRT is mandated to conduct in-depth research studies on selected topics on the Work Programme of the AALCO. The Center, taking note of the efforts within the WTO in the eve of its Cancun Conference to review and render the existing special and differential treatment provisions more precisely, effectively and operationally, as well as considering the contemporary relevance of the topic, has successfully accomplished a study on “Special and Differential Treatment under the WTO” in 2003.
Similarly, in pursuance of this mandate, the Center is presently conducting a specific study on a topical issue of terrorism, entitled “Legal Aspects of Combating International Terrorism” as well as the definition of terrorism. This study focuses on the initiatives under the UN system, including the on-going work on the elaboration of the “Draft Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism”, proposed by an AALCO Member State (i.e. India). It also seeks to elucidate upon the problems and issues before the international community in evolving legal mechanisms to counter international terrorism.