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International Justice Initiative

About us

The International Justice Initiative enables students to experience the practice of international law and policy first-hand, through legal research, analysis and service in the public interest.

It empowers a group of UTAS law students to tackle diverse issues of justice in the international arena, by contributing to the work of influential organisations and alumni on contemporary issues of international law.

The Initiative has four main objectives:

  • Advancing the practice of international law in the public interest
  • Providing students with opportunities in international law and policy
  • Supporting poor and vulnerable countries and groups with pro-bono advice
  • Further strengthening the UTAS Law School's international profile

Student achievements have included supporting poor and vulnerable countries at United Nations meetings, contributing to new international initiatives, and press coverage by major international media.

The Initiative is student-led, and builds on a background of successful participation by UTAS students and alumni in international processes, and ongoing engagement with faculty and alumni.

Students are invited to apply to participate at the start of each academic year.

In the News
International Justice Initiative: 2018 in Review

Opportunities

The International Justice Initiative aims to provide opportunities for students with a strong social-justice and public-interest orientation to engage in the substance and practice of international law.

Participating students have the opportunity to:

  • Undertake research to advance international law in the public interest and provide pro-bono support
  • Assist alumni and other experts working in international and public-interest-focused organisations
  • Cooperate to complete research projects under the careful supervision of faculty and/or external advisors
  • Learn about international law-making through ad-hoc seminars by experts in UN and other international processes
  • Receive support in finding and undertaking internship and work experience opportunities with a global reach

The Initiative has also provided a number of opportunities for students to travel abroad and participate in international processes.

Current work

The Initiative has conducted work in international climate change law, sending a few students to UN Climate Change conferences every year. More recently, the Initiative has also assisted the recipient of the Tim Hawkins Scholarship from UTAS (who acts as the Legal Assistant to the Special Advisor on international humanitarian law to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague) in international humanitarian law, and worked with the Convention against Torture Initiative on anti-torture legislation.

Future work

Building on experiences with international climate change law, human rights law and international humanitarian law, opportunities are being explored in areas such as international refugee law, trade law, and fisheries law, in consultation with UTAS faculty and alumni and their networks.

Achievements

Highlights

Students involved in the International Justice Initiative have made significant contributions to the development of international law and policy in a range of fields. These include:

  • Participating in multiple United Nations meetings and providing assistance to negotiating groups representing over 60 countries, including advice throughout the development of the ‘rulebook’ of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • Researching the financial needs of developing countries to achieve their pledges under the Paris Agreement, which gained international media attention during its signing ceremony in New York.
  • Supporting multiple initiatives serving the world’s poorest countries, including on renewable energy and climate change adaptation.
  • Conducting research into the position of countries and organisations on public participation and conflicts of interest at climate change negotiations.
  • Preparing memos of advice for the Tim Hawkins Scholar from UTAS (who acts as the Legal Assistant to the Special Advisor on international humanitarian law to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague) on the interpretation of the Rome Statute.
  • Building connections between UTAS and overseas universities, further strengthening the Law School’s international profile.

2019 Participants: Felix Craig, India Beecroft, Kate Raffety (coordinator), Matthew Etherington, Molly Bird, Nina Hamasaki, Rachel Hay, Salman Shah (coordinator)

Tasks undertaken by the International Justice Initiative in 2018 include:

  • Attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Bangkok, Thailand and providing advice to support developing countries in negotiations on the rulebook for the Paris Agreement, including on the global stocktake, technology transfer, market mechanisms and loss & damage. Students also delivered interventions to the full UN plenary on behalf of civil society.
  • Preparing a memo of advice for the Tim Hawkins Scholar from UTAS (who acts as the Legal Assistant to the Special Advisor on international humanitarian law to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague) on the interpretation of provisions of the Rome Statute which provide protections for cultural property.
  • Preparing a memo on the legality of torture provisions in Asia-Pacific countries for the Convention Against Torture Initiative. Students also attended and helped organise a seminar in Fiji in February 2019 which aimed to assist ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture in the Pacific.
  • Analysing the adaptation needs of 54 African countries and assist in the development of a online portal for the African Adaptation Initiative and the United Nations Development Programme.
  • Researching the positions of UNFCCC parties and organisations on conflicts of interest to support developing countries and civil society calling for a policy on conflicts of interest.
  • Researching climate change loss & damage finance in Africa in collaboration with experts to support the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism.
  • Updating research by IJI on the financial needs of developing countries to achieve their pledges under the Paris Agreement to provide context for negotiations on climate finance at COP24.

See the 2018 Presentation to UTAS staff and IJI Year in Review story by Law Reporter, Rachel Hay.

Participants: Alice van Galen (coordinator), Connie Beswick, Dan Westbury, Frances Medlock (coordinator), Heidi White, Kate Raffety, Rosie Evans, Salman Shah

Tasks undertaken by the International Justice Initiative in 2017 include:

  • Attending UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany in May 2017 and providing advice to support developing countries and civil society in negotiations on the rulebook for the Paris Agreement, including on transparency, compliance and the global stocktake (See May 2017 Report - PDF).
  • Attending UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany in November 2017 and providing support to the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group.
  • Preparing a memo of advice for the Tim Hawkins Scholar from UTAS (who acts as the Legal Assistant to the Special Advisor on international humanitarian law to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague) on the interpretation of provisions of the Rome Statute which provide protections for cultural property.
  • Conducting research into the position of various organisations on public participation and conflicts of interest at the UNFCCC, to contribute to an international workshop on this topic, which was covered by the New York Times and other media outlets.
  • Analysing the Nationally Determined Contributions of African countries to assist the African Adaptation Initiative.
  • Analysing the Nationally Determined Contributions of the LDCs to assist the LDC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Initiative for Sustainable Development.
  • Acting as rapporteurs for a climate justice conference - Imagining a Different Future - at UTAS and producing a comprehensive conference report (PDF) with summaries of every session.

Participants: Alice van Galen, Ashleigh McCoach, Brook Dambacher (coordinator), Camilla More, Frances Medlock, Gabby McDonald, Heidi White, Kate Raffety, Lauren Hargrave

Tasks undertaken by the International Justice Initiative in 2016 include:

  • Researching the financial needs of developing countries to achieve their pledges under the Paris Agreement on climate change, which gained international media attention during its signing ceremony in New York.
  • Mapping initiatives on renewable energy and energy efficiency serving the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to inform the development of the LDC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Initiative for Sustainable Development.
  • Analysing mandates flowing from the Paris Agreement to support the development of a workplan for the LDCs.

Participants: Aelish White, Ashleigh McCoach, Brook Dambacher (coordinator), Camilla More, Isabelle Patch, Lauren Hargrave

Background

The Initiative was founded in 2016, following the experience of two UTAS students travelling to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris during December 2015.

The students had conducted research into the negotiations process throughout the year under the guidance of UTAS alumnus Matthew Stilwell – a public interest lawyer and legal advisor to developing countries in the negotiations – and were able to make valuable contributions in the lead up to, and during, the conference.

The Initiative is the result of efforts to bring similar opportunities to engage in international law processes to UTAS law students, to help cultivate the next generation of public interest international lawyers.

People

People supporting the Initiative include:

Co-founders/Convenors

Matthew Stilwell

Matthew Stilwell is a Faculty of Law Alumni and public interest lawyer who has counselled governments, international- and non-governmental organizations in multilateral negotiations on trade, climate, energy and sustainable development.

Rebecca Byrnes

Rebecca Byrnes graduated from the University of Tasmania in 2014 before undertaking masters programs in Oxford in law and environmental change and management as a Rhodes Scholar. Rebecca has supported poor and vulnerable countries in the international climate negotiations and currently works as a Policy Analyst at the London School of Economics at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

Brook Dambacher

Brook Dambacher graduated from the University of Tasmania in 2017 and is currently undertaking a master’s course in environmental change and management at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. She works to support developing countries in the United Nations climate change negotiations as well as on sustainable development initiatives, particularly in the area of renewable energy.

Faculty Advisors

Rick Snell

Rick Snell is an Honourary Associate Professor in law at the University of Tasmania. He played a key role in catalysing and supporting the Initiative.

Matias Thomsen

Matias Thomsen is a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania. His research is on the role International Criminal Court judges can play in the progressive development of international humanitarian law. He has an on-going relationship as a research assistant with the International Criminal Court.

Apply

The Initiative seeks applications from current UTAS law students at the beginning of each year. Positions are limited and are awarded through a competitive, merit-based selection process.

Time commitment

Participants are expected to dedicate an average of 3 hours per week, with the possibility for more or less time depending on the research projects that are being undertaken and student's university assessment commitments.

Application process

Students will be notified about the application process on an annual basis. Applications for new student participantswill require:

  • A cover letter setting out your motivation to work in the area of public interest international law and why a commitment to the public interest is important in matters of international relations and law, as well as your teamwork ability, and problem solving/strategic thinking skills.
  • A curriculum vitae.

Applications for students reapplying to the Initiative will require:

  • A cover letter setting out your motivation to continue working on the Initiative, reflections on your experience with the Initiative to date and, if applicable, an expression of interest in the student coordinator roles.

Applications should be sent to iji.utas@gmail.com with the subject title "International Justice Initiative: Expression of Interest".

Application deadline

Based on the above, applications close at the end of semester 2 each year. The specific date and time, and any additional information on the application process will be provided in the call for applications.

For more information, please contact Brook Dambacher iji.utas@gmail.com