July 19, 2012
Professor Steve McCaffrey, one of the world's foremost experts on laws governing international watercourses, has been shuttling between three continents recently working on a variety of legal issues.
He gave the opening talk, "The History and Content of the UN Watercourses Convention" at a conference, "The 1997 UN Watercourses Convention: What Relevance in the 21st Century," on June 5, 2012, at the University of Dundee in Scotland. The next day, he served on a dissertation defense panel for a young woman from Uzbekistan who was awarded a PhD by the institution. On June 7, he was the dinner speaker at the conference's gala at an historic 15th century castle.
On June 28, he participated in the Columbia River Treaty Bilateral University Legal Workshop, held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. "The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss a paper that had been prepared by a Canadian and an American law professor on the future of the Columbia River Treaty," he said. "The treaty provides that beginning in 2014, either party may give 10 years' notice of termination. It's a fairly big deal because the treaty provides for flood-control measures to be taken by dams in Canada to protect American cities (principally Portland, Oregon) and for the sharing of downstream power benefits produced by the Bonneville Dam — most of whose power goes to Los Angeles." Of the 40 experts and stakeholders in the room, McCaffrey was the first speaker to take the microphone after the opening presentation. He was also asked to wrap up the meeting, which he did together with one of the original Canadian negotiators of the 1961 document.
McCaffrey then hopped on a plane to go to The Hague for a meeting of Nicaragua's legal team in the case concerning the case brought against it by Costa Rica involving border activities undertaken by the former. He returned to campus for a week then left for New Delhi, India, for a meeting of India's legal team on the Kishenganga River dam arbitration between India and Pakistan. Construction on the dam was halted by The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration in October 2011 due to Pakistan's protest of its effect on the flow of that river.
So McCaffrey is racking up plenty of frequent flier miles on his travels, but he actually doesn't get much sleep. On one recent flight, he finished an expert opinion on the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal for Ecuador in its dispute with the United States. It is one of many cases that have grown out of activities of Texaco, now part of Chevron, in Ecuador related to the extraction of petroleum and related harm to indigenous peoples and the environment.
McCaffrey readily admits he is looking forward to returning to the classroom next month where he will be teaching two courses, Public International Law and International Environmental Law, in the fall semester. And he will be able to go home each night.