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“ILC candidate Marja Lehto is the epitome of law and diplomacy” - Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN : Current Affairs : News

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News, 2/12/2016

“ILC candidate Marja Lehto is the epitome of law and diplomacy”

Ambassador Marja Lehto from Finland is the candidate of the Nordic countries for the membership of the International Law Commission (ILC) for the term 2017–2021.

Lehto emphasizes that the ILC is an important actor. In fulfilling its mandate to codify and develop international law, the Commission has made a major contribution to the strengthening of the rule of law at the international level.

Dr Lehto's curriculum vitae is impressive: Ambassador, Senior Expert, Chair of the Executive Board of Justice Rapid Response, Director of the Unit for Public International Law in the Finnish MFA.

The curriculum vitae might soon get an addition. Dr. Lehto is the candidate of Finland and the other Nordic countries for the membership of the International Law Commission for the term 2017–2021. As a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly, the ILC's mission is the progressive development and codification of international law.

“I’ve worked most of my career with international law – enhancing its development, implementation and respect,” Dr Lehto states. “It is my life’s work.”

During her career, Dr Lehto has contributed to the elaboration of major conventions as well as to legal negotiations at the international and European level. She has extensive international experience and proven skills to generate compromises.

Furthermore, she has earned widespread recognition for her academic work, which ranges from the law of the sea to the law of the UN Charter, international criminal law and humanitarian law.

Dr Lehto knows the United Nations from the time she worked as the legal adviser of Finland's Permanent Mission to the UN from 1995 to 2000. Since then, she has returned to the UN on several occasions, participating in discussions and negotiations on international law, e.g. during the annual International Law Week.

"The composition of the ILC, consisting of both scholars and practitioners with recognized competence in international law, ensures that it will remain sensitive to the realities of international relations," Lehto says.

“I think my international and UN experience would be an asset in the ILC."

Ambassador Marja Lehto made a statement for Finland at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in February 2016.

Nordic perspective

Nordic lawyers have contributed to the work of the ILC from its first years. Dr Marie Jacobsson from Sweden will step down next year after two terms in the Commission. Two Finns have held a seat in the ILC: Professor Erik Castrén  (1962–1971) and Professor Martti Koskenniemi (2002–2007).

"The Nordic countries have much to offer in international law," Lehto says.

"Rule of law and human rights are an important part of the Nordic legal tradition. The Nordics are known to be pragmatic and constructive interlocutors, not afraid of working hard or meeting challenges."

Lehto is one of the few female candidates who have so far sought membership in the ILC for the period of 2017–2021. At present, the Commission has only two female members out of 34. The glass ceiling broke only in 2002, when the first two female members were elected.

"The ILC needs members with experience from the UN and negotiation skills.  The Commission would also benefit from a better gender balance. It is furthermore important that the Nordic perspective continues to be represented in the committee,” Lehto adds.

Dr Marie Jacobsson who has had a seat in the ILC since 2007 has described Lehto as 'the epitome of law and diplomacy' and has said, that Lehto's contribution to the ILC would be of substantial importance.

"The legal relations between states have become increasingly complicated, which underlines the need for high-quality legal expertise and considered legal work. The ILC provides in this respect an additional resource for states – all states,” Dr Lehto states.

”I am a strong believer in the continued relevance of the ILC's work.”

Mika M. Niskanen

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Updated 10/12/2016

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