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United Nations Economic and Social Council grants Washington and Lee special consultative status

wl-universityThe United Nations Economic and Social Council has granted Washington and Lee University “special consultative status,” a prestigious designation granted to qualifying non-governmental organizations and only a select few academic institutions.

The recommendation for special consultative status was officially adopted April 8, 2015. Presently, only three other U.S. educational institutions, and less than 10 percent of non-governmental organizations, possess this special status.

Henok Gabisa, visiting doctoral fellow at W&L’s law school, oversaw the rigorous two-year application process and was on hand when the recommendation was made at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accreditation committee session earlier this year.

“The status allows W&L to participate and comment on the UN’s ECOSOC law and policy making process through research, position papers, reports, and issue briefs,” said Gabisa. “In special cases, the University can even use its status for interventions made on the floor during ECOSOC proceedings.”

The University was recommended by the ECOSOC accreditation committee based primarily on the law school’s work on rule of law and access to justice issues in developing countries. The school’s international law curriculum features a number of classes focused on legal aid and human rights, including on the ground work in Tanzania, Liberia, Palestine and with the UNODC’s Anti-corruption Academic Initiative (ACAD).

The recommendation was also influenced by the impact of W&L’s Transnational Law Institute for its role in fostering academic discussion and collaboration of key issues in international law through lectures by renowned scholars, academic exchanges and other events.

Speedy Rice, visiting professor of law who teaches many of the school’s practice-based international law classes, explained what the special status means for the University.

“Our past international human rights work and academics have been reviewed by the ECOSOC Committee and found to be supportive and in harmony with the UN’s Human Rights and Civil Society goals,” said Rice. “This Special Consultative Status accreditation will permit greater faculty and student involvement in the works of the many ECOSOC programs and in the ability to use important human rights works as valuable teaching tools with international recognition.”

Examples of projects the status allows include the presentation of “shadow reports” during the UN’s Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of countries where victims and local NGO’s often lack any voice to advocate for UN intervention. The status also allows the faculty to participate in expert working groups and to supervise students of W&L at UN ECOSOC conferences and other UN ECOSOC international events.

“Receiving this recognition is a significant accomplishment for our Law School and a reflection of the high caliber of faculty, students and programs at W&L,” said W&L Provost Daniel Wubah. “It also provides an opportunity for our institution to participate actively in transformative developmental programs that would contribute towards eradication of poverty and improved social justice.”

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