Gender, Israel, Iran, Training and More...

It has been a very busy past few weeks. The consolidated response I drafted on assessing administrative law systems in developing countries is officially in the review stage. So far, feedback has been positive. Hopefully, it will be a useful tool for practitioners in the field, and maybe even convince some organizations that more work needs to be done on the subject.

My next long-term project is a broad one: researching how to incorporate a gender aspect into the rule of law. According to the UN, all development programs and all governments should “mainstream” gender issues. Of course, my first research question then became: What is gender mainstreaming. It is a very interesting topic, so I am always coming up with new questions and ideas. I do not have a very strong background in gender issues, so I am learning a lot, and wading through quite a bit of literature. The research projects I have been doing here at USIP have been really helpful in strengthening my background in internationl law. I am looking forward to finding out how much that helps when I take the formal classes in the fall.

Aside from research, I got to attend several more  interesting events here at the Institute. One was when the two-time Israeli ambassador to the US came to speak bout the possibility of peace with Palestine.

It was a fascinating talk, with a few contentious moments (one involving the ambassador commenting on a questioner’s marked weight gain). My personal opinion on the conflict between Israel and Palestine is that both sides take unreasonable positions on many key issues and are playing a drawn-out and counter-productive blame game. That aside, it was interesting to hear the Israeli position on the settlements (that removing them would be the equivalent of “ethnic cleansing”) and on the right of return (that Palestinians left of their own accord and thus Israel owes them no rights). The ambassador also remarked on how many Israelis view the current US administration to be pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, leading him to wonder if the US would be able to maintain its role as mediator. He also doubted Turkey’s ability to act as a mediator after the country issued mildly critical statements about an Israeli policy. Commenting on President Obama’s speech in Cairo, the ambassador said Israelis were troubled not only by the way he drew vague parallels between the Holocaust and Palestinian suffering, but also about the emphasis the president placed on values shared by Islam and the US. The ambassador's remarks troubled me because they seemed to suggest an uncompromising requirement that the US side unequivocally with Israel if the US wants to play a role in the peace process, which implied an inability to accept neutral parties. This did not bode well for future negotiations.

The event on the Iranian elections was very popular. Several scholars from the area came to discuss their views on how the recent election would shape Iran’s future and how it could mould the Obama administration’s policy towards Iran. The speakers emphasized that Obama previously stated flat-out that there would be no conditions for engagement with Iran. However, as we all know, there have been significant changes in the situation, making it timely to re-think past statements. Despite everything, most agreed that engagement with Iran was still probably the best option because the turbines are still spinning and the nuclear weapons are still being developed. They cited precedents in American history where presidents engaged with unsavory regimes when it was necessary. They also emphasized the need for a plan if negotiations fail, especially considering the Iranian government’s penchant for stubborn resistance. Some said that the time frame for such a plan may be very short because Israel might come to feel extremely threatened and strike first.

This Tuesday, I was the rapporteur for my supervisors' meeting that brought together a group of people who are leaders in developing training on the rule of law for various international organizations and actors. The meeting's purpose was to compare lessons learned from past training endeavors and come up with ways to improve the rule of law training community. It was an amazing group of very well informed individuals from all over the international framework, including the USG, UN, and DFID. In taking notes, I gained a better understanding of the rule of law as a concept because I got to hear a critical discussion of the challenges faced in teaching the concept to others. Even though the event spanned the whole day, it went by very quickly. Spending more time with the participants afterwards in a social setting was fantastic because I not only got to know more about these people in their unofficial capacities, but I also heard about the different ways their legal backgrounds guided their career paths.