Law professor appointed to United Nations as senior conflict mediator

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January 26, 2010

4:35 AM

College of William and Mary law professor Christie Warren has already been to 38 countries, and by the looks of things, her list is nowhere near complete.

Warren was appointed to serve under the United Nations Department of Political Affairs and Norwegian Refugee Council last week as one of four senior mediation experts for constitutional issues serving a 12-month term.

Though she will remain affiliated with the College during her tenure, her post will require her to be continually on-call, ready to deploy to post-conflict peacekeeping zones at the UN’s request within 72 hours. Her post will require her to remain in the area until mediations are complete, assisting in conflicts with constitutional deadlocks.

“I’m very honored by the assignment and am looking forward to my responsibilities,” Warren said. For the time being, however, Warren has no idea where she will be headed.

“It is up to the United Nations to decide where I am sent,” she said. “It all depends on which countries need constitutional advice during the next twelve months.” This sense of uncertainty, however, does not discourage Warren, who said she looks forward to the challenge of not having one specific area as a focal point.

“I love the comprehensive nature of [the job],” Warren said. “Some people prefer to focus on one area of the world because they have a passion for that area. I’m not one of those people. I believe a comparative approach is most useful in post-conflict reconstruction.”

At the Marshall-Wythe School of Law, Warren specializes in international law, teaching comparative constitutional law, post-conflict justice and Islamic law courses. She also founded and currently serves as director of the Program in Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Justice.

She has previously worked for the United States State Department and United States Agency for International Development as one of three advisers overseeing the drafting Kosovo’s constitution following its secession from Serbia in 2008.

Warren has also assisted the World Bank in the past.

“[Professor Warren] is a very dynamic person with an incredibly rich experience around the world,” Law School Dean Davison Douglas said. “It did not come as a big surprise that the UN reached out to her.”

Warren said that because conflict-ridden areas frequently do not have sufficient academic resources or access to the internet, issues can arise with realizing historical contexts and precedents. As a result, she said she views her new position as one of restraint.

“I believe very strongly … [that residents of] countries in which conflict has arisen should take the leadership role in post-conflict reconstruction,” she said. “I don’t see my role as directing answers. I believe in the value of facilitating discussions … so people can create solutions that are most appropriate to their own situations.”

Provost Michael Halleran said Warren’s appointment reflected her commitment to others.

“I’m delighted at the appointment,” he said. “The law school has a history of fostering the ‘laywer-citizen.’ [Warren] is a wonderful example of just that.”

Warren, whose job sites have included, among others, Cambodia, East Timor and the Balkans, said that she prefers to travel in developing countries, and that this interest has spread to her family.

“We don’t tend to go to Paris or London for vacation, we go to places like Marrakesh and Nairobi,” Warren said. “Some people just shake their heads when we talk about where we’re going next.”

Warren’s family, however, will remain in Williamsburg during her UN tenure. Despite this separation, she said she is excited for the challenge.

“Each country and geographic area presents a different set of issues, different levels of complexities, different histories and different legal systems,” she said. “The challenges involved in solving problems and addressing issues in each country are unique.”

__Editor’s Note: Kosovo was incorrectly listed as having seceded from Bosnia. This has been corrected to Serbia.__

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