A to Z of the SGP

Hugh Stubbs on the valuable contribution of the IBA's Section on General Practice. Hugh Stubbs is a partner at Freshfields and chair of the IBA Section on General Practice. The International Bar Association is a unique organisation. In addition to almost 20,000 individual lawyer members – most of whom belong to one of its three sections – the IBA is also made up of 173 corporate members, national bar associations and law societies from countries all over the world.

As with most other parts of the IBA, the Section on General Practice (SGP) has moved on from its original aim of providing a section within the IBA to carry on what most would regard as the IBA's pro bono activities. It was recognised that these were unlikely to be self financing and hence some general committees were set up in the section to assist.

As the IBA and the SGP have grown, the work of many of the committees has become more specialised while the SGP has continued to carry out much of the IBA's pro bono work. There are now 23 committees and the Judges' Forum in the section. These include committees on media law, migration and nationality law and growing family-held business enterprises.

Over the years the Criminal Law Committee has regularly provided members to act as representatives of the IBA at international conferences organised by the United Nations. Similarly, the Cultural Law Committee has done extensive work contributing to Unidroit's project on the illegal export of cultural objects. The Family Law Committee has been much concerned with the development of international rules relating to inter-country adoption, while the Real Estate Law Committee has drafted rules with international application to provide basic standards for the timeshare business.

Two groups of lawyers – judges and government lawyers – are particularly important to the work of the IBA. The judges' role in relation to the administration of justice is self-evident. The most recent committee set up by the section is the Committee on Government Practice, which provides a meeting place, both for government lawyers and those involved in government work.

Committees in the section have started to organise regular seminars. The Criminal Law Committee led the way with successful seminars on the “trans-national criminal”.

The SGP has made an important contribution to what many would regard as perhaps the IBA's most important work – namely, its support for the fundamental principles of human rights. Until the relatively recent formation of the Human Rights Institute, the Human Rights Committee of the SGP was the only part of the IBA which a practitioner interested in human rights could join.

More recently, the SGP has set up a committee which specialises in gender and discrimination issues. It has done valuable work in promoting the use of gender-neutral language and has worked closely with the Committee on Legal Education and Professional Development.

A specialist committee concerned with another type of discrimination is the Indigenous Peoples and Development Law Committee, whose meetings have highlighted the difficulties which minorities face in many parts off the world.

Also, programmes on the particular difficulties faced by, and in relation to, children, and the problems of the mentally ill have been covered.

And the future? The specialist committees will continue to grow and bring together lawyers from different countries while other parts of the section play a part in the IBA's work in the fields of human rights and the administration of justice.

Talk about lawyers' high ideals is easy; putting these ideals into practice is less easy, but this is what the SGP achieves throughout the world.

conference HIGHLIGHTS

The following are highlights of the IBA Section on Business Law and Section on General Practice 1997 Conference in New Delhi.

Monday 3 November

The plight of the wife

The session will discuss human rights, property rights, and the marital and parental rights of girls and women from three different economic backgrounds in each region.

Equality: making it happen

A programme for examining questions relating to issues of equality around the world.

Tuesday 4 November

The role of the civil practitioner in a criminal investigation

The focus of the programme will be the key role of the civil practitioner in many international criminal investigations, including international business and banking.

Emerging markets and the globalised legal function: regional variations in the delivery of legal services

A session focusing on the impact of the globalisation of the legal function, with particular attention being paid to emerging markets.

Wednesday 5 November

Drafting guidelines for non-discriminatory practice in the law

What is happening globally to practice guidelines for non-discrimination. This session will involve drafting a set of model guidelines.

Thursday 6 November

Justice denied: miscarriages of criminal justice

A two-part topic being handled over a one-year period in New Delhi and Vancouver (1998), this first session will deal essentially with miscarriages of justice that are the product of delays in cases coming to trial and the unavailability of legal assistance.

Use and misuse of ad hoc public inquiries

An examination of how people's rights are affected by such inquiries.

Friday 7 November

Legal Updates Relating to Technology Law

Update on important areas of technology law and the use and control of digital technology.

Multinational developments in Asia and Africa

A review of the investments being made in these regions, and the issues relevant to the regions and selected industries.