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RC Activities and plans 2004 -2006

ACTIVITIES AND PLANS 2004 - 2006

IARLJ EXECUTIVE & COUNCIL MEETING

Thursday, November 11, 2004
Edinburgh, Scotland
 
IARLJ AMERICAS CHAPTER

REPORT

ACTIVITIES AND PLANS 2004 - 2006
Foundations and Progress

Since the IARLJ Americas Chapter's founding meeting in Washington, D.C., on August 21, 2003, it has achieved a number of milestones that have not only benefited the Association, as a whole, but to refugee and asylum law judges and decision-makers within the Americas, in particular. The IARLJ Americas Chapter has accomplished these milestones by staying firmly fixed on its fundamental purpose as a Regional Chapter within the IARLJ.

The principal Objects of the IARLJ Americas Chapter are three-fold:

To seek to advance the professional development of its member judges and quasi-judicial decision-makers.

To seek to expand and maintain its membership, and that of the IARLJ, to include all countries within the Americas.

To seek to exchange expertise and best practices among all countries within the Americas.

Following its highly successful founding meeting, the IARLJ Americas Chapter presented its governing instruments to the IARLJ Executive for approval. Both the IARLJ Americas Chapter's Statement of Purpose and its Governance document were ratified at the IARLJ Executive and Council meeting that was held on April 23, 2004, in Paris, France.

Nine months after the IARLJ Americas Chapter's founding meeting, it held its First Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, June 9th - 11th. The IARLJ Americas Chapter's First Conference was a great success. There were over 60 refugee and asylum law judges and decision-makers from some 17 countries in attendance. The First Conference featured a number of outstanding refugee and asylum law judges from the Americas, including, Mr. Justice Antonio Cancado, former President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Madame Justice Ana Calzada, first female judge of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica, Chief U.S. Immigration Judge Michael Creppy, and Madame Justice Carolyn Layden-Stevenson, Federal Court of Canada. The First Conference covered such important topics as the protection and advancement of international human rights for refugee and asylum seekers and trafficking in women and children. In a highly successful post-conference workshop, some 40 refugee and asylum law judges and decision-makers, relatively new to the field, received the IARLJ's basic intensive training course.

Another significant indicator of the First Conference's success was that it did not go over its planned budget of $50,000 U.S. In fact, the First Conference Committee indicated that it was in a position to return about $1,000 to $2,000 back to the IARLJ Americas Chapter.

At the IARLJ Americas Chapter historic first General Meeting, its governing instruments were unanimously accepted and the members of its Management Committee were fully endorsed. The officers of the IARLJ Americas Chapter include:

Jean-Guy Fleury, Chairperson (Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada)
Lori Scialabba, Vice-Chairperson (Chairman, U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals)
Gaetan Cousineau, Secretary/Treasurer (Deputy Chairperson, Refugee Protection Division, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada).

The General Meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, also approved a number of reports including the Chairperson's Report, Vice-Chairperson's Report on the IARLJ Americas Chapter's Standing Committees, the Secretary/Treasurer's Report, and the IARLJ Americas Chapter's Priorities and Plans 2005-2006 document, that is attached to this report.


Priorities and Plans 2005-2006

The Priorities and Plans 2005-2006 document outlines six areas that the IARLJ Americas Chapter will concentrate on over the next two years. Five of these six areas fall directly within the mandate of the five Standing Committees of the IARLJ Americas Chapter: Conferences; Fundraising; Professional Development; Membership and Translation. Rather than repeating everything that is found in the Priorities and Plans 2005 - 2006 document, this report will outline the progress that has been made in a number of important areas, since the First Conference held in San Jose, Costa Rica, last June.

Finances

One of the overriding objectives of the IARLJ Americas Chapter is to build a solid financial foundation on which to base its operations. The only sources of funds available to date have been from the IARLJ and from the First Conference registration fees. The Fundraising Committee has been tasked with devising ways and means to raise the necessary funds to cover its operating costs as well as any special initiatives.

Membership

The Membership Committee has been tasked with expanding the membership of the IARLJ to all countries in the Americas. There was a concerted effort to encourage all those who attended the First Conference of the IARLJ Americas Chapter to become a member or to renew their membership in the IARLJ.

A great deal of work still needs to be done in this area.

Translation

The IARLJ Americas Chapter has been fortunate in being able to draw on the expertise and abilities of a number of its members to assist in the translation of documents from English to Spanish. We anticipate that as the activities of the IARLJ Americas Chapter increase, over time, that the need for translation will also increase. The Translation Committee has been tasked with identifying as many members as possible who would be willing to translate key documents on a voluntary basis.

Conferences

The IARLJ Americas Chapter Management Committee has accepted the offer of its members in Mexico to host its second Conference that is planned, tentatively, to take place in Mexico City in February 2006. Cynthia Cardenas, Chief Protection Officer, COMAR, has been assigned as the principal local organizer for the 2006 IARLJ Americas Chapter Conference. Ms. Cardenas will be invited to serve on the IARLJ Americas Chapter Management Committee and to participate on future teleconference calls.

The IARLJ Americas Chapter Management Committee has also requested that Lois Figg and Max Vargas prepare a manual on how to plan and to organize a successful Regional Chapter Conference. This manual will include sample letters of invitation, conference programmes, budgets and other information necessary for holding a successful conference. There will also be a section on "lessons learned" from previous conferences. We hope to update this manual after every conference, so that we will have a ready "blue print" or "template" for planning and organizing future IARLJ Americas Chapter biannual conferences.

The IARLJ Americas Chapter Management Committee is also considering a proposal from First Conference Chairperson, Ana Calzada, to use the remaining unused funds budgeted for the conference, to publish the conference proceedings in an English/Spanish soft cover edition.

Professional Development

A major initiative that was presented, discussed and ratified at the IARLJ Americas Chapter General Meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, was the International Protection Project for the Americas (IPPA). IPPA is modelled after the IARLJ Europe Chapter's highly successful Justitia Project. It is a multi-year capacity building initiative that is targeted to refugee and asylum law judges and decision-makers in nascent refugee determination systems in the Americas. The IPPA application document is available in English and Spanish and it has been distributed to UNHCR officials in the Americas. Indeed, IPPA is premised on a partnership with the UNHCR. It also requires a Project Manager to direct and operate the project. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada has agreed to provide a Project Manager for IPPA.

The IPPA application will be presented formally to Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), and Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC) officials in the coming weeks. A considerable amount of groundwork has been done to date to arrange a meeting with these officials in order to secure funding for IPPA. Efforts are also being undertaken by Lori Scialabba to try and secure funding with the U.S. Department of State.

It is hoped that the funding for IPPA can be secured by the end of this year so that the project can be launched next year, 2005. It will then operate over the next three years, until 2008.

The IPPA project has engaged the members of two IARLJ Americas Chapter Standing Committees, the Fundraising and the Professional Development Committees.

At the 2005 World Conference
The next opportunity for the members of the IARLJ Americas Chapter to meet in-person will be at the 2005 IARLJ World Conference in Stockholm, Sweden. The IARLJ Americas Chapter has planned to organize a panel on the topic, "How have security concerns affected refugee and asylum determination in the Americas since September 11, 2001?" at the Regional Chapters' sessions at the IARLJ World Conference.

The IARLJ Americas Chapter is also hoping to advance its agenda of activities and plans, as outlined above, with the members in attendance from the Americas at the IARLJ World Conference in Stockholm.


November 2004

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