U.S. Department of State selects Asian Law Center for critical development project
Seattle - The University of Washington School of Law, long considered one of the leading institutions for Asian law and transition economies in the United States, is now entering new geographic territory with the help of a highly competitive U.S. Department of State grant. Professor Veronica Taylor, director of the school’s Asian Law Center, and her team members Jon Eddy and Assistant Professor Clark Lombardi, are the recipients of $2 million to establish a graduate program for Afghan law professors. The grant will fund a three-year project to help rebuild Afghanistan’s legal profession, and allow Afghan lawyers to spend one year in Seattle as visiting scholars or master’s of laws candidates to learn about the U.S. legal system.
In collaboration with Kabul University Law School, project director Taylor and project manager Eddy plan to select an initial group of 15 people from KULS’s law and politics and Sharia, or Islamic law, departments. “One of our main objectives is to find out what program participants really need, and give them the tools to occupy a pivotal position in the development of their legal system,” she said, pointing out that plans also include two international conferences to bring different stakeholders, including Afghan officials, foreign governments and NGOs, together. At least one of the conferences will be held in Seattle.
Taylor thinks that the UW is uniquely suited to help address the challenges the Afghan justice sector is facing by providing immediate education and training in areas such as comparative law, criminal justice, human rights as well as international studies and anthropology. The center’s extensive work in Southeast Asia – particularly Taylor and Lombardi’s work in Indonesia, has positioned it to work with Afghan lawyers, who have had limited or no exposure to how legal pluralism operates in transition and advanced economies. Because of political unrest in Afghanistan, the resulting destruction and the forced isolation during the Taliban regime, most faculty at KULS did not have the opportunity to study outside of the country for the past 20 years.
The first group of students is expected to arrive in January 2006 to begin an intensive nine-month course of study at the law school. However, their year abroad will also include English instructions and thoughtful exchanges with students from Azerbaijan, Indonesia and the Middle East, whose countries or regions have undergone significant transitions, too.
For 40 years, the Asian Law Program at the University of Washington has been ranked as one of the finest and most comprehensive program in this field worldwide. Now renamed the Asian Law Center, its teaching and research cover Central Asia, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.