Competitions and Emissaries – The Second Article in Our Series

Competitions and Emissaries – The Second Article in Our Series


Every year the Faculty sends students to represent the university and Israel in international competitions * In our last issue we looked at the Jessup and ICC Moot Court Competitions * This time, we would like to introduce you to the Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Moot and the Copenhagen International Negotiation Competition


“Traditional frontal teaching in classes and lectures can achieve a lot, but other teaching methods are also valuable, particularly in the field of law.” This balanced appraisal is offered by Professor Tomer Broude, an expert in international law. “The advantage of international competitions, like the legal clinics,” he continues, “is that they give the students a chance to practice things for themselves and to learn through action, rather than just coping with theoretical questions.”


Broude also notes that participation in such competitions shows that the students did something meaningful alongside their regular academic studies, something that can have a positive impact on their future professional opportunities. “Over the past several years I’ve followed what happens to the Faculty graduates who participated in these competitions, and they’ve done well for themselves. I’m not claiming that this is just because they participation in the competitions, but that shows something about the quality and motivation of the participants. These are the kind of students who will end up working for the United Nations, or on international tribunals and the like. It opens a window into a career in international law and gives them a good push forward. When I was a student we didn’t have these kind of opportunities,” Broude recalls.


The Annual Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Moot (IHL)

The IHL competition was held this year for the sixth consecutive year, and the first round included 12 teams from seven academic institutions around Israel. Each team includes three students who are required during the course of the competition to prove a knowledge and understanding of the rules of international humanitarian law. The students play different roles, such as attorneys general, commanders of guerilla forces, Red Cross representatives, United Nations diplomats, and so forth. The first stage is the national competition in Israel. The Hebrew University has won this stage for four years running, and last year two teams from the university won first and second places. In the second stage the winning team travels abroad to participate in an international competition against teams from around the world. The teams undergo initial screening by the university and the Red Cross to make sure they meet a minimum level of knowledge in the field.


Yahli Shereshevsky, the competition coordinator and one of last year’s coaches, explains why the IHL differs from other international legal competitions: “The other two main competitions offered in the Faculty are moot trials in which the first stage includes written arguments followed by a formal presentation stage. By contrast, in IHL the students study humanitarian law and related aspects, but there isn’t a single focused argument or advance preparations. The whole process is based on simulation games,” he notes. The competition is based on a selected background story and the teams take part in simulations, receive background material, and come into the room. Each time the situation is different, and each time the participants have to play a different role and present the relevant legal arguments. “They have to understand who they are, what it means to represent that party, which arguments are legitimate and which are not. The dynamic is also very different. There’s a big difference between courtroom debating and negotiations with another country or a discussion in the army,” Shereshevsky points out. “They need to have an excellent grasp of the material so that they can fish out the relevant points. The participants have to be very creative, to know how to present their case, and to know when to choose an argument that is more humanitarian and when to prefer a more military-oriented argument, for example.”


Shereshevsky continues: “I think this competition is the most fun to take part in as a student. It’s so creative, and you don’t find yourself rehearsing the same legal argument a thousand times over. The atmosphere and the spirit of the competition are also very special. When you move on to the international stage, the emphasis is on maintaining a pleasant atmosphere and encouraging international encounters. There’s a real sense of satisfaction, as in the other competitions, but also an emphasis on other aspects.”


The IHL is closely rooted in reality. Just as an attorney does not necessarily know what argument s/he will face next, so the participants in the competition have to gain a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the law, since each time they focus on a different legal situation. “In the Jessup moot, for example, you prepare for a specific case, but in the IHL you have to prepare yourself for the unknown,” Professor Broude explains. “Just as in legal practice you sometimes have to react quickly to solve a problem, it’s the same in the simulation. You come with what knowledge you have, they try to confuse you, and you have to respond quickly in a rapidly-changing reality,” he adds.


The participants receive four academic credit points for participating in the national competition and two more points if they make it to the international competition. The competition also strengthens their self-confidence in speaking to audiences, judges, and adversaries. “Some legal professionals spend all their time drafting documents. But for most of them it’s a profession where you need excellent speaking skills. The competition really enhances your confidence in your own abilities in this field,” says Professor Broude. “The Hebrew University is very strong in the research field, but even native English speakers can find it hard to express themselves, let alone people who don’t have that background in the language. We try to teach this, too.”



The Copenhagen International Negotiation Competition


This is a relatively new competition held under the auspices of the University of Copenhagen. The competition focuses on negotiations for agreements between countries relating to complex international economic issues. Participation is by invitation only, and limited to fifteen leading institutions from around the world. In 2010, the Faculty was invited to participate in the second competition, which related to an international agreement to formalize trade rights in generic drugs. This subject combines international trade, human rights, and intellectual property. “We were invited because the organizers were looking for outstanding faculties from non-OECD countries,” Professor Broude explains. “During the course of the competition Israel joined the OECD, and for the purpose of the game the organizers told us that we would play the role of the OECD group. That changed our commitments and frameworks and raised the bar for the competition.” Despite this change, the university’s team – consisting of Lital Casper and Noah Alster – won first place in the competition. The first stage of the competition includes the submission of written documents, followed by a stage of oral arguments held in Copenhagen. “The document they prepared was excellent. We moved on to the oral stage and they won first place. That’s an exceptional achievement,” Broude notes.




Lital Casper (right) and Noah Alster (Photo: Libi Oz)


“I remember that when we went to Copenhagen we were sure that we would be the underdogs,” Lital Casper recalls. “We arrived with two goals: to enjoy the competition, the people, and the experience and to have fun in the city. This was the first year that the Hebrew University had sent a team to the competition. For us it was an incredible learning experience, and we hoped to be good ambassadors for the university and to gain experience to help the university’s teams in the following years,” she explains. She recalls that during the competition the other teams used all kinds of negotiating tactics. The Israeli team had not concentrated on developing this aspect, but focused on content and on the general logic of the proposals. “We were sure that we didn’t stand a chance of reaching the finals, so we were really surprised,” Lital admits. She describes the competition as an amazing experience, and attributes the victory to a combination of excellent content and a successful approach to the negotiations. “Above all, I think we made sure to take a level-headed approach. We enjoyed the experience, the city, the competition, and the encounter with people from different countries. We didn’t let the pressure get to us,” she concludes.


In preparation for the competition, each team prepares a profile of an imaginary country similar to the country it is representing. The competition simulates multiparty negotiations between numerous countries ahead of the drafting of a particular convention. Sometimes the emphasis is on just a few clauses in the convention. Accordingly, while the other competitions are more adversarial, the situation in Copenhagen is complex in nature. During negotiations, everyone seeks to move things forward and reach agreement, but there are also conflicts of interest and overlapping interests. There might be a common interest with a country on one aspect, but a conflict on another issue. Broude suggests that the judges, who are themselves experienced diplomats from international organizations, also examine the team’s ability to advance the negotiations and not just to insist on its own position. The net result is a different kind of dynamic in the competition.


The competition also appeals to a different kind of student to the other legal competitions, and it focuses on different kinds of international issues. “Apart from humanitarian law and international public law, there is a whole world of international conventions dealing with economic issues and touching on regulations in the fields of safety, health, the environment, and so forth,” Professor Broude explains. “Today there is even an international convention on reducing smoking. There are certainly students who are interested in such progressive issues and we try to raise awareness of these fields,” he adds. In the past, the competition has addressed such issues as access to medicines, access to food against the background of global famine, and so forth – issues that are essentially economic. “The subject of rising global food prices, agricultural subsidies in certain countries, agreements to increase global food production, and improving the distribution of food are all a science in their own right and are studied outside the Faculty and the campus,” Professor Broude emphasizes. This year, for the first time, the organizers of the competition are requiring that one student in the team must come from the sciences, and one of the documents must be a scientific analysis of the product. This year’s subject is international trade in sustainable energy. “Each country has to decide what product it wants to promote. Israel could be a solar superpower,” Professor Broude suggests.


Michelle Nagar, who participated in the competition in 2011, warmly recommends the experience: “The Copenhagen competition is a great option for anyone who wants to learn about international law behind the scenes – how it is created, the role Realpolitik plays in the process, and the incredible importance of the ‘small print’ at the end of the convention. These aspects are not usually studied in the Faculty, but they can sometimes lead to very stormy arguments.” According to Nagar, the competition was a tremendous intellectual challenge that expanded her knowledge of international law in general and developed her strategic thinking. “For me,” she confesses, “the real reward came during the debating stage. I discovered my true capabilities at the moment of truth, and I had an amazing sense of empowerment that stayed with me for a long time after the competition.”



Michelle Nagar (right) and Shallya Scher