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Program Initiatives

Harmonizing and Developing International Law

Most members of the Organization of American States have signed international and inter-American treaties guaranteeing their citizens basic rights, such as protection from violence against women and access to public services for the disabled. However, many nations do not fulfill these obligations, whether from poor coordination with responsible agencies, lack of resources, or inattention.

The Vance Center is joining with advocacy groups and law firms in Latin America and the United States, as well as OAS and UN agencies, to harmonize the laws of individual countries with the provisions of treaties that they have signed. Lawyers will analyze shortcomings and gaps, and advocacy groups will promote treaty compliance, all in collaboration with international and national agencies. In addition, the Vance Center and its partners will engage in drafting new treaties, focusing on issues like rights of the elderly, for consideration by the OAS and its member states.


Promoting Environmental Sustainability

The environmental challenges the world faces today demand cooperation across borders and even continents by civil society organizations, governments, and the private sector.

The Environmental Sustainability Program, working with international and regional environmental NGOs, incubates and implements cross-jurisdictional pro bono legal projects to advance the missions of these NGOs. Our main geographic focus is Latin America, but it is expanding into Africa and Asia.

We seek to promote environmental sustainability in these areas of the world by:

    • collaborating with environmental NGOs to develop and implement projects that augment their knowledge and capacity and magnify the impact of their work;
    • assembling and coordinating multi-jurisdictional teams of pro bono lawyers to take on these projects with us;
    • advising our environmental NGO clients on legal and organizational strategy, communications, and management;
    • promoting cooperation on environmental sustainability issues among NGOs, governments, private-sector experts, and academic institutions.

Current clients of the Program include environmental organizations in Latin America and Africa and U.S.-based international environmental organizations working in the areas of land, marine and biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation, toxic waste remediation, and sustainable infrastructure development. The Program is also providing legal support to the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment.


Supporting International Tribunals

As international treaties have strengthened the rights of individuals to protection by and against their states, tribunals have developed to offer redress based on those treaties: the International Criminal Court; the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights; and the African Commission and Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. However, these tribunals are challenged by insufficient resources, overloaded dockets and uncertain support by member states.

The Vance Center is engaged in strengthening the capacity of international tribunals and the non-governmental organizations that serve them, through several initiatives. It provides training to private lawyers in the rules and procedures of the tribunals, so that they can provide pro bono representation to indigent petitioners. It offers research and analytical support to legal staffs and special rapporteurs, as well as strategic advice on matters like amicable settlement. It brings together judges and practitioners from various tribunals to share knowledge and build solidarity. It advises NGO’s as they learn how to interact with the tribunals.