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2018 Four Societies Conference — Tokyo, Japan

The Seventh biennial Four Societies Conference took place in Tokyo, Japan on July 2–3, 2018. The Conference was hosted by the Japanese Society of International Law, at the prestigious Waseda University. The Conference hosts presenters and senior scholars from the American Society of International Law, the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law, the Japanese Society of International Law, and the Canadian Council on International Law. This session of the Four Societies continued to promote the original objective of the CCIL and JSIL in 1990 of bringing young scholars of international law together. Through the Conference, many young scholars have made friendships and professional associations which have lasted throughout their careers. 


Sixteen scholars presented at this year’s Conference, under the theme of “Changing Actors in International Law”. Each session was chaired by a senior scholar, with Charles-Emmanuel Côté also delivering opening remarks and Armand de Mestral delivering remarks at the evening dinner on behalf of the CCIL.


2018 Four Societies CCIL Delegates

From L-R: Jason MacLean; Armand de Mestral, CM; Charles-Emmanuel Côté; Miriam Cohen; Sabaa Kahn (from ASIL); Zhannah Voukitchevitch; Ryan Gauthier

Day One

The first day saw presentations at sessions of “Lawmaking/Statehood”, and “Dispute Settlement/Responsibility”, which addressed fundamental areas of international law. Two CCIL representatives presented in the “Lawmaking/Statehood” session. Jason MacLean discussed the role of non-state actors in combatting climate change given state inaction, challenging the audience that by the end of his presentation, they would all become climate-change activists. Ryan Gauthier spoke about the role of sport in establishing statehood, and a 2017 Court of Arbitration for Sport decision that addressed the status of Kosovo as a participant in international soccer. Other presentations examined anti-terrorism financing, and the participation of quasi-states in international organizations.

The second session on “Dispute Resolution/Responsibility” was chaired by the CCIL’s Charles-Emmanuel Côté. Miriam Cohen represented the CCIL as a speaker on the panel. She presented on the scope of the responsibility of individuals for violating international law, particularly in the beyond the criminal dimension. Other presentations discussed non-binding international standards and their effect on domestic law, access to justice for individuals in international law and the role of the state in promoting and preventing such access, and self-determination of groups and the potential to establish non-state international legal persons.

Day Two

On day two, the sessions on “Armed Conflicts” and “Indigenous People” engaged in particular thematic areas of great modern relevance. The “Armed Conflicts” saw presentations on the status of non-state groups in armed conflict; the application of international humanitarian law to conflicts with non-state groups, the application of international law to “gray zones” of conflict that lie somewhere between peace and war, and the investigation of attacks that end up causing collateral damage to NGOs.

The final session of the conference titled “Indigenous People” saw Zhannah Voukitchevitch represent the CCIL. She presented on procedural barriers to the participation of Indigenous peoples in international law, based on a case study of the Inuit Circumpolar Council and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Other presentations examined the general conceptualization of indigenous peoples as actors in international law-making, the participation of indigenous groups in international law-making (with a focus on restitution of cultural property), and the relationship between indigenous rights and state sovereignty, particularly as it relates to climate change and the Arctic.

The President of the Japanese Society of International Law, Yuji Iwasawa, attended the closing session of the conference. This was all the more remarkable, as he had just returned from the United Nations in New York City. Shortly after the conference, he was elected to the International Court of Justice.

Dozens of academics and professionals from the Japanese international legal community attended the Conference, which produced excellent discussions of issues that international law will be facing over the next decades. The CCIL would like to thank our gracious hosts, the Japanese Society of International Law, especially Dai Tamada and Atsuko Kanehara, who kept everyone organized. We could not have been made to feel more welcome in Japan, and look forward to future collaborations between the Four Societies.

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