Thursday, November 4, 2010

By Lucianna Ciccocioppo

Prof. Sujit Choudhry
Prof. Sujit Choudhry
When the UN mediation roster needs rapid deployment to help defuse a political hot-spot situation somewhere in the world, the U of T Faculty of Law will now be able to help. That's because Prof. Sujit Choudhry, LLB '96, associate dean of the first-year program, has been invited to join the roster and be part of a prestigious international panel of advisers to assist during ceasefire, peace and constitutional negotiations.

"The impact of the mediation roster is very real: to help warring parties reach long-lasting agreements for a return to normal politics," says Choudhry, who has done previous work in Nepal and Sri Lanka in connection with peace processes and constitutional negotiations. "Ceasefire negotiations often lead to constitutional negotiations, because the grievances that gave rise to the conflict in the first place are often criticisms of the old constitutional order, which is perceived as unfair by one or more parties to the conflict."

Experts on the mediation roster are carefully selected and complement headquarters-based staff of the mediation support unit, and the standby team of mediation experts, explains the UN announcement. Roster members may be deployed on short or long-term assignments based on the need. And, says Choudhry, the help is welcomed.

"Ultimately, the most effective international advice accepts that the constitutional settlements have to fit a country's history and current political circumstances. Outside models provide lessons to be learned, dangers to be avoided, and frameworks to be adapted, not transplanted. When outside experts take that as their starting point, domestic political actors are very receptive." 

Choudhry says he looks forward to playing a role with the global peace-keeping organization, and expanding his skills in the negotiation process.

"UN mediators have been involved in a very large number of conflict situations, such as in Cyprus and Kenya. The list goes on and on. My previous work thus far has been with politicians, civil servants, constitutional assembly members, and members of civil society, but not directly in the negotiation process. So this will be a new frontier for me."