On January 20th, Professor Yves Daudet officially retired as Secretary-General of The Hague Academy of International Law. A special farewell ceremony and reception were held in his honor during which the new Secretary- General, Professor Jean- Marc Thouvenin was formally introduced to the Academy's community members. A few days before he left office, Professor Daudet graciously agreed to be interviewed by the editors of the Newsletter. Surprisingly, he did not held back! Find out more how he looks back on his time at the Academy, his many highlights and accomplishments and how he will continue to stay involved in the future of the Academy.
Q1. How do you look back at your time as Secretary-General of the Academy? Were you able to achieve everything you had set out do in the beginning?
I would like to make two remarks about this issue:
(i) A work of this kind is never completed: it is possible to show some paths to be pursued and some objectives that must be redefined. On the other hand, it is also possible to achieve some of the objectives which have been foreseen. Nevertheless, circumstances happen to change, and many elements need to be reconsidered. It never ends! This is the reason why leaders must leave and new leaders must be chosen. Professor Thouvenin succeeds me after 12 years as Secretary-General of the Academy and this is certainly good news for the Academy.
(ii). A work of this kind can never be successfully achieved if one is alone. At first the approval of the Curatorium and its’ President is absolutely essential. The late Mr. Boutros Boutros Ghali’s support as well as the Curatorium’s support never failed me and that's what made my task workable. It is also necessary that the Council of Administration, its President and the Treasurer of the Academy are willing to provide the necessary financial and material resources. In this respect, a frank dialogue has always been possible among all of them who were sharing the same concern to serve the Academy as well as possible. Finally, in the last years of my term, I was fortunate to have a remarkable secretariat, reinforced thanks to the new treasurer. It was headed by the Deputy Secretary-General Ms. Monique Legerman, who has been an extremely valuable and effective partner for me.I am pleased to say that without her and her colleagues Elisabeth Schuit and Anna Vasilyeva, a lot of activities and many achievements would not have been done during the last years of my mandate.
Q2. What would you consider your biggest highlight during your time at the Academy? What were the most important moments?
It is difficult for me to answer this question objectively and in any case, it is not for me to judge. What I can say is that the Curatorium had asked me to "modernize" the Academy. I was appointed in 2005 at the early years of the new century. The Curatorium asked me to draft a report aiming at giving my own views about the Academy. In a nutshell, I was convinced that it was high time to make the Academy an institution of the 21st century. The new building was inaugurated two years later. It is a splendid and modern building, very well designed. The methods of the Academy and its activities therefore had to adapt to this new framework. It was not easy in an institution that was stuck in an administrative routine that had not changed for years and years and where habits had become a law that could never be amended! President Boutros- Ghali kept an eye on my proposals and actions about which he always paid great attention. The Curatorium appointed a "Modernization Committee" which helped me in my task and the Treasurer at the time was interested in this matter. Little by little, the image of the Academy changed. I proposed to create the collection of paperback books. With the exception of the Curatorium, I encountered much resistance and hostility to this creation. Fortunately, today it is considered a success. But what gave me the greatest pleasure was to read a review in an American law journal in which it was said that one would never have imagined that an institution as "fusty and aged" as the Academy was, would be able to transform itself in that way and to publish a so modern and new series! Today no one sees the Academy as an institution of another age! That is certainly what I am the most satisfied with. As for the most important moments, it is of course the summer courses and the Research Center. Starting in 2019, the Summer Courses and the Research Center will be followed by the Winter Course that I proposed to create to the Curatorium during the last year of my mandate. The Academy will be very much alive with students coming from all countries of the world and renowned professors who will succeed one another. Indeed, there are still many more activities but it would take very long to go into the details.
Do you think our cooperation will continue to be of importance in the future?Indeed, the Library is a key element for the Academy. No one could imagine that the Academy may exist without the Peace Palace Library which is really great and absolutely essential to the Academy, not only for the proper functioning of the Centre of Research but also for the Summer Courses. May I tell you that I am always very proud when people tell me how great the “Library of the Academy” is….and I am so sorry to have to be frank and say that it is the “Library of the Peace Palace”, not of the Academy, headed by a Director who is not the Secretary-General of the Academy!!! In order to answer your question clearly, it is obvious that a cooperation between the Library and the Academy is more than essential in the future. It must continue.
Q4. On January 20th, you were elected to succeed Mr. Bourtros-Boutros Gali as president of the curatorium of The Academy. Can you tell us more about your new role?
Succeeding Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali as well as other renowned previous presidents of the Curatorium – Nicolas Valticos, Roberto Ago and others – is an immeasurable honor. It is also a challenge. Subject to more deepened thoughts, my first intention is to avoid to bother the Secretary General and to encroach upon his tasks and attributions. Mr. Boutros-Ghali never did it when I was Secretary General but he was always ready to help or to give his opinion when I was seeking for it. I intend to do the same. Secondly, I would be glad to promote a good cooperation between the Curatorium and the Council of administration which would be a considerable input in the development of the Academy. It should be easy to manage and my excellent relationships with the President of the Council will certainly help in this respect.
Q5. In the light of recent political events, some members of the Peace Palace community have expressed to us their concern about the future of international law. Are you still optimistic about the future role of international law? Do you expect to see any big developments in international law in the near future?
These questions are extremely broad and I would need to have one full hour to answer them. What I can say in short is that, obviously, we are struck and disturbed by the behavior, declarations and new regulations of the new president of the United States. But you will notice that it is not so easy to put aside the rule of law; in the United States, the Judiciary demonstrates its existence and its power.
It is always risky to compare domestic order and international order. Nevertheless, I don’t think that President Trump will be able to continue to act as the destroyer of multilateralism and international law. Sooner or later he will be faced with obstacles. For the moment, I think he wants to show Americans that he indeed is doing what he announced he would do during the campaign (unlike other politicians!) but I don’t think it will last. The effect it may have on elections in other countries is another but a much more preoccupying story. As far as international law is concerned, I hardly imagine that it might be, as such, severely damaged. Some specific branches may be affected such as environmental law, trade law, etc.. This is not nothing and it is extremely worrying, but I mean that the global rule of law should continue to expand.
Having said this, I recognize that we are going through a very difficult period and a totally unforeseeable time. In this type of circumstances, it is always better to try to keep an optimistic attitude than to sink into pessimism and a deep anxiety which would not help!