When the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), held its annual workshop on International Conflict Prevention and Mediation at Lewis Katz Building recently, a pair of Penn State collaborators presented their work on how best to remove legal obstacles to creating lasting peace treaties through regional conflict mediation.
Dr. Scott Gartner
, professor of international affairs and affiliate law professor, saw the event as in perfect alignment with the mission of the School of International Affairs (SIA). “Both are dedicated to not only research, but in applying the research to solving global issues.” Dr. Gartner also pointed out that the unique integration of SIA and Penn State Law adds capacity to the mission that he was able to tap into in developing a paper presented at the workshop with Ben Premack '13, J.D./M.I.A.
Their research builds on Dr. Gartner's work demonstrating that the involvement of regional government organizations (such as Organization of American States and the Arab League) in peace agreements is highly correlated with the failure of those agreements. Dr. Gartner examined the root causes of such failures. “Only the most severe cases are arbitrated by regional organizations,” Dr. Gartner likened this phenomenon to a surgeon taking on only the direst medical cases. “The probability of failure would naturally be higher.” Dr. Gartner thinks that if the regional organizations are able to more fully participate in negotiating peace treaties in their regions, the likelihood of success would increase. His work is now focused on developing a set of rules to increase the longevity of peace agreements by making the regional organizations more effective mediators.
“Dr. Gartner brings both the statistical and international background to this project and my focus is in parsing out the detail of international agreements to be able to recommend changes that will enable regional organizations to function more effectively,” Premack said. One area Premack is looking at is developing a mandatory recusal process for states and entities which have a stake in the outcome of an agreement. For example the Arab League would have a difficult time negotiating a peace treaty—even though it is in the best interest of the region to do so—between Syria and the insurgents—if Syria and Saudi Arabia (seen as supporting the insurgents) do not recuse themselves from the process.
Dr. Gartner said he appreciates Premack's ability to provide the legal perspective. “Our target audience for the paper is the international legal community responsible for drafting the kinds of charters and agreements that govern the organizations.” Premack stressed that the players in these matters are “concerned with issues of federalism and legal forms relevant to their individual nations. Therefore the arguments put forth in the paper need to focus on how this benefits an individual nation.”
The ultimate outcome Gartner foresees is proposed rules that the organizations could adopt. He anticipates that the upcoming workshop will provide him and Premack with a way to vet the paper with scholars and diplomats who can help them refine and improve their ideas.
Premack began his career as a scientist and worked with the U.S. Geological Survey. “I came to a point where I needed to decide whether to pursue an advanced geology degree. I thought that I would be able to help more people with a law degree,” he said. Premack said he chose Penn State Law because he liked the idea that he could get a master's degree in international affairs along with a law degree. He believes that the additional information and knowledge associated with the M.I.A. is giving him what he would need to practice international Law. He hopes to pursue international resource and energy law and researches and writes on these topics for the Penn State Global Forum.
FBA is a prestigious Swedish government agency dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of international peace intervention. Dr. Gartner is hopeful that in hosting the Folke Bernadotte Academy workshop, some of the world's top researchers and practitioners will become more aware of the resources and accomplishments at Penn State. As one of the organizers of the event, he has invited students and faculty to participate.