Judging the Jessup in Afghanistan

Tue, Feb 5, 2013



Stories about Afghanistan are often told in large set pieces about war, violence and regional history. And, in fact, those stories are critical to understanding the region, the country and the life that people live. But I am attracted to the small stories, the details that can easily be missed.

One such story was my recent experience as a judge in Afghanistan’s Jessup Moot Court competition, which was held over several days in January. By way of background, the Jessup is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from over 500 law schools in 80 countries. In this competition, teams of up to five participants argue fictional cases before the International Court of Justice. The questions of law this year — existence of states without defined territory, treatment and proposed transfer of refugees and seizure of state funds — were complex and nuanced. Teams from eight Afghan universities (not necessarily law schools) participated in the competition held in Kabul, and the winning team advanced to the international rounds which will be held in Washington, D.C. later this spring.

I will admit that I love the courtroom, and that first as a law student and then as a lawyer, I watch litigants like many people watch sports teams. And so, I was happy to spend my day off for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as presiding judge for one of the qualifying rounds. All of the participants before my court argued these complex matters, both in writing and orally, in English, a language that is not their native one. Some were better than others (obviously) but they all did something I am not sure I could ever do: used very complex facts and legal theories and made a case in a language that is not the one I grew up speaking. My two fellow judges (one American, one Afghan) and I asked hard questions, kept strict timing and pushed them when we didn’t think they had responded to us. As a lawyer, I was more than impressed. Neither of the teams I judged advanced to the Afghan final round, which was held at the Afghan Supreme Court. The two final teams were very closely matched, and I would have had a hard time picking a winner. But the judges did, and the team from Herat University will represent Afghanistan in the next round of international competition.

The commitment of all of the participants was tremendous, and reminded me that the law can bridge many worlds and many places and, in its own way, bring people together across the globe. The participants also provided a sharp contrast to the stories of using violence to resolve conflict, instead using words and the rule of law.

Stephenie Foster is the Women and Civil Society Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government.

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Women, Peace and Security – UN Security Council Resolution 1325

Women, Peace and Security 


UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was the first of its kind to specifically address the unique impact of conflict on women, and women’s important contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace. Passed in 2000, it marked a watershed moment when the international community formally recognized the integral role of women and gender to peace and security. UNSCR 1325 has remained an essential tool for encouraging governments to fulfill their obligations to ensure women are included as agents for peace and security in all processes, and its framework has inspired further action by the UN and civil societies and governments around the world to mainstream gender into their work on conflict resolution.


Following UNSCR 1325, subsequent Security Council Resolutions further defined the importance of women’s roles in conflict and peacebuilding. Resolutions 1820, passed in 2008, and 1888, passed in 2009,  recognize sexual violence as an issue of international peace and security and reiterate the need for a comprehensive response to sexual and gender-based violence. In 2010, Resolution 1960 created specific steps needed for the prevention of sexual violence, and Resolution 2106 in 2013 looked specifically at accountability for crimes of sexual violence. The most recent resolution on women, peace and security, UNSCR 2122, aims to strengthen measures to improve the participation of women in all phases of conflict resolution and prevention.


UNSCR 1325 and successive Resolutions are an important show of international support that ensure women, peace and security are on the agenda for international organizations and governments across the globe, but there are many steps between the passage of such resolutions and their full implementation on the ground.  One tool that helps bridge this gap are National Action Plans(NAPs), written plans that specify how a country will mainstream gender, and the principles of 1325 into its defense, development and diplomatic activities. Over 36 countries in the world have drafted NAPs, and that number is growing every year.


In addition to government- and UN-level documents and programs, it is important to consider the work women do in more informal, Track II diplomatic and peace negotiations. Around the world, women are active as civil society leaders, and in many cases, such as Liberia, Northern Ireland and the Philippines, their grassroots work has played a major role in peace processes.


For more resources on women, peace and security, visit The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and SecurityPeaceWomenUSIP, and The Institute for Inclusive Security.

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