Remarks: Twenty-First- Century International Lawmaking

Harold Hongju Koh, Yale Law School


The last time I spoke at Georgetown University Law Center was on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of the Legal Adviser's Office, known affectionately at the State Department as "L." I have now been the Legal Adviser at the State Department for more than three and a half years. During that time, at nearly every public event I attend, I find myself being asked questions about one issue: armed conflict. Nearly every question I am asked involves Guantanamo, Afghanistan, cyber war, detention, and targeting practices. While these key areas raise tremendously important legal questions, in fact, they do not occupy even half of my time. More than half of my time is spent on a completely different set of issues, which I almost never get a chance to talk about publicly. So today, let me talk not about international conflict, but about the other side of what I do: the legal aspects of international cooperation and engagement. Specifically, let me address how we in the Obama Administration have handled a broad set of activities that can be grouped loosely under the rubric of "twenty-first-century international lawmaking."