Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Universidad Austral: A Leader in South American Legal Education

Last Friday, I had the great pleasure of speaking to a group of law students at the Faculty of Law at Austral University in Buenos Aires.

Specifically, I spoke about "Las nuevas politicas ambientales de la administracion Obama" ("The new environmental policies of the Obama administration"). The kind invitation to speak was extended by Fernando Horacio Paya, a professor who heads a new department of environmental law at Austral. Prof. Paya also practices environmental law at Estudio Nicholson y Cano in Buenos Aires.

My remarks, and later the question time, flew by in what seemed like just half an hour or so when in fact I was there for nearly two hours. My objective was to explain the current situation President Obama finds himself in, and how his administration is trying to develop a clean-energy program that will support a restoration of the economy. I also said that forging a better and more mutually beneficial relationship with South America needed to be a priority in the new president's administration.

In particular, it is essential that the U.S. and Cuba re-establish normal diplomatic and trade relationships. My view comes in large part from my study of the European Union and its remarkable success in redefining the long-standing contentious relationship between Germany and France. Surely if Germany and France can "take the next step" the U.S. and Cuba ought to be able to do the same thing.

The students were engaging and thoughtful in their questions. We covered lots of ground including GMOs and the EU's generally anti-GMO stance; the U.S. stand on climate change and how the Obama administration is beginning to redefine this country's approach to climate change; and issues related to development projects and how best for communities to voice their concerns about these projects. They also shared with me their hopes for the success of President Obama, a sentiment I told them that was shared by millions of people in the U.S.

It was an enormously enjoyable afternoon for me and I hope the Austral professors and students as well. Environmental, energy, and economic issues tie the western hemisphere together in a way that is perhaps more important than ever before in our respective regional histories. To a growing degree, an environmentally conscious and economically strong western hemisphere benefits all of us from the very southern tip of South America to the northern most regions of North America. We have much in common and a great deal to learn from one another.

My hosts at Austral -- which included Profs. Mariano Augusto Sapag and Maria Cecilia Amiel along with Prof. Paya -- could not have been more gracious. My hope is that in the coming months and years, the DU LLM and MRLS programs (as well as the JD program) will establish a closer relationship with con amigos a la universidad de Austral.

Tomorrow's environmental challenges will obviously test the ingenuity of all of us, but looked at another way the potential opportunities are also limitless. To achieve our potential as a world, however, we must work together in a collaborative and respectful fashion. Potential partnerships between organizations such as Austral and DU may well serve as a model for the future. It is time to prepare for the world's future.

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