An inside view of institutions in international law

JD student Tim Tabalujan reflects on his experience in Institutions in International Law, a two-week study intensive in Geneva, Switzerland.

Michael Gu, Elizabeth Georgiou, Tim Tabalujan and Tara Malishev in Geneva. Image: supplied.

Geneva. Home of the United Nations (UN) in Europe. Headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Swiss cheese, chocolate, wine and fondue. European summer and sunset picnics by the lake.

These are just some of the things you will get to see and enjoy on Institutions in International Law. Indeed, for me, the opportunity to take part in this subject has been one of the most fun, enlightening and meaningful experiences of the JD.

Institutions in International Law is an elective Melbourne JD subject taught primarily through two intensive weeks in Geneva, Switzerland. During these two weeks, we got to visit a number of international institutions, ranging from household names like the WTO, to some less well known, though equally fascinating, organisations such as the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

By giving students the opportunity to visit these institutions and interact with their personnel, this subject provides an insight into the aims, functions and limitations of international institutions in the context of contemporary political developments and challenges.

A typical day on the subject would begin with boot camp (an optional twenty minutes of group exercise, including push ups, sit-ups and the dreaded wall-sit) and a hearty buffet breakfast.

On the boat to Yvoire. Image: supplied.

After breakfast, we would set off to our first institution of the day, which usually involved a short bus or tram ride. Generally, each visit would comprise an interactive discussion with representatives from the organisation and, occasionally, a tour of the premises.

We would end the formal activities at our last institution of the day at around 5pm, after which we might take a rest, explore the Old Town, or go for a swim in Lake Geneva. Nearly every night we would meet for a communal picnic by the lake, which could last for a few hours given that the sun would only set at around 9pm.

Some of the highlights included: visiting the Australian Permanent Mission to the UN/WTO; observing the International Law Commission discuss the topic of jus cogens; learning about current trends and issues in global intellectual property from Mr Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO and the most senior Australian in the UN system; and getting a further chance to network and engage informally with our speakers at a picnic by the lake.

Equally memorable were some of the social highlights, including: the challenging but beautiful group hike up Mont Salève in France; the fondue-eating competition at Café du Soleil; the excessive amount of gelati and kebabs we consumed; and, most importantly, the opportunity to get to know and hang out with twenty-four like-minded, albeit unique, individuals.

At the top of Mont Salève. Image: supplied.

Looking back over our two weeks in Geneva, two things stand out to me: first, the incredible opportunity to visit some of the world’s key international institutions and interact with their staff, and second, the friendships formed and strengthened along the way.

On behalf of the class of 2018, I would like to say a huge thanks to Oz, Andrew, Tania and Dorian, without whom none of this would have been possible.

I will always look back fondly on my time in Geneva, and would recommend this subject to anyone with even a general interest in international institutions and international law. I have no doubt that it will be one of the most memorable experiences of your law degree.

By Tim Tabalujan, JD Student

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