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  • Huf Witnesses Major Changes at the UN

    During 2016, Mr. Huf had the opportunity to meet with both the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) and the President of the UN General Assembly for the 2015-16 term.  As a Representative (Observer) to the UN on behalf of the New York County Lawyers' Association (NYCLA), a recognized Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Mr. Huf took a keen interest in what they had to say.

    HE Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General; and Jason Huf (JHI)
    (Left to Right: H.E. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations; and, Jason Huf)

    Nearing the end of his second term, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been very earnest in showcasing and attempting to make effective his crowning accomplishment: the UN Sustainable Development Treaty (the Treaty), which garnered a record number of member states joining as signatories.

    In April, the Secretary-General reached out to the private sector, in particular the US Legal Community in New York City, to see what they could do to help promote and ensure the success of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are embodied in the Treaty (for more on the SDGs specifically, we invite you to peruse www.un.org).

    While the underlying purpose of the SDGs is noble (after all, who doesn't like clean air & water, equal rights, rule of law and the like), as lawyers we are limited to providing our corporate clients with legal advice, not business or public relations advice.  We can only advise our clients on how to be compliant with the laws and regulations of the relevant jurisdiction(s).  If a client were to invest in, say, Saudi Arabia (KSA) in such a manner that it promotes gender equality in that market, it may be a terrific selling point - but, that's a PR decision, not a legal requirement.

    We will discuss gender equality and other relevant issues in the KSA when providing JHI's write-up on Mr. Huf's attendance at and observations of the week-long "Riyadh Day" presentations at the UN.  As to the promotion and enforcement of the SDG's, it really is up to the signatories to pass executing legislation before attorneys can advise on how to comply with such provisions.   And let's face it, only government can concentrate the resources and power necessary to execute such sweeping and extensive changes.

    The odds of that happening really have to be measured on a state-by-state basis.  As to the Western states, Mr. Huf points out that in politics there is an ebb and flow, with a pendulum that swings right and left, and the present trend appears to be one wherein Western countries are electing more conservative, business-friendly governments.  If Mr. Huf is correct, then issues such as combating "climate change", for example, will (for the time being at least) take a back seat to pro-energy policies that are likely to be adopted by such governments.

    Irrespective of what one thinks of the feasibility of accomplishing the SDGs by the target date of 2030, no one should doubt the Secretary-General's sincerity in wanting these goals to be accomplished, or what he views as the UN's power to shepherd such change.  Mr. Huf found His Excellency's sincerity, passion and enthusiasm to be obvious in that he wears it on his sleeve.  He also thinks it obvious that the Secretary-General is highly intelligent, exceedingly accomplished, and a very nice man.

    Its a remarkable life story, really. From UN Refugee to UN Secretary-General:  finding himself to be a UN refugee at age 6 with the outbreak of the Korean War, to becoming an advocate for lasting peace as the Republic of Korea's (South Korea's) Foreign Minister, to being Secretary-General of the international body that once shielded him and his family as young refugee, he proudly says "I am a UN Boy".

    Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark) & Jason Huf (JHI)
    (Left to Right: Morgens Lykketoft (Denmark), then-President of the United Nations General Assembly; and, Jason Huf)

    On the subject of choosing his successor as Secretary-General, Mr. Huf had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Morgens Lykketoft, formerly the Finance Minister of Denmark who, until this September, served as President of the UN General Assembly.

    Mr. Lykketoft provided an overview of changes to the selection process.  Perhaps the most fundamental innovation is the vetting of candidates by member states that occurs prior to the vote taken by the Security Council members.

    Whereas in past years the entire process of selecting a Secretary-General was dominated by the "Big Five" (the permanent Security Council members: the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom & France), candidates for their consideration are now first reviewed, narrowed down and subsequently voted upon by the General Assembly. 

    The Security Council is not bound by any recommendation made or preference expressed by the General Assembly; however, to elect a candidate that was not considered favorably by the General Assembly would be to risk a divide between the Secretariat (the executive wing and permanent bureaucracy of the UN, which the Secretary-General heads) and the member states themselves (upon which the very legitimacy of the UN relies).

    On the other hand, this increased, more hands-on role by the member states and the General Assembly as a whole could provide for greater transparency in the selection process and, when heeded by the Security Council, may lead to greater consensus between the General Assemby and Secretariat.

    This year, the revised process produced the election of Antonio Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal who once served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  He will take over the office of Secretary-General in January of 2017.

    In addition to achieving the SDG's, Mr. Guterres's efforts are promised to be focused on continued reform of the UN bureaucracy; continued streamlining, expansion and enhancement of refugee assistance; and, very prominently, an aggressive new "surge" in diplomacy for peace - an intensification in seeking resolution to the wide proliferation of conflicts around the world, especially those conflicts that have led to several severe refugee crises currently plaguing humankind globally.

    JHI congratulates Mr. Guterres on his election after a months-long campaign that included a rigorous review process resulting in consensus in both the General Assembly and (somewhat remarkably) the Security Council as well; and, cautions: careful what you wish for, sir - because now you've got it.

    The retiring Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, even after all of his success in his position at an institution he has loved and revered since childhood, nonetheless seems very happy to return home to Seoul after 10 rewarding - but long - years.  JHI congratulates him as well, and thanks him for his service.  We hope His Excellency enjoys a well-earned retirement after a long, but safe, journey home. 
  • N. Mandela and How the "Soprano State" Doesn't Work in Africa, Either

    On the evening of September 22, 2016, Mr. Huf attended an event featuring Ndaba Mandela, Chairman & Co-Founder of the "Africa Rising" Foundation, and grandson of late South African President Nelson Mandela.  Mr. Mandela was in New York during the Convening of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and spoke at the New York City Bar Association on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) vis-a-vis African states, particularly Goal # 16 (concerning Good Governance, Anti-Corruption and Rule of Law).


    Ndaba Mandela, Africa Rising Foundation & R. Jason Huf, Huf International (JHI, pc)
    (Left to Right: Mr. Ndaba Mandela, Chairman & Co-Founder of the "Africa Rising" Foundation; and, Jason Huf)

    Mr. Huf grew up in New Jersey, and has lived there for roughly half the sum total of his life thus far.  He knows, first-hand, the economically and socially corrosive effects of political corruption, and the crippling effect a government that serves only to facilitate corruption can have on a state and the people who live in such a place.

    That said, Mr. Huf limited himself to listening.  After all, while lawyers may be at the bottom rung of the ladder among the govering class, lawyers are still part of the governing class.  Mr. Huf thought it best to listen to - and learn from - someone who speaks for some of the people of the developing world who have been poorly served (and, often, downright exploited and oppressed) by those who govern their countries:  "Far be it from me to tell him what he should want.  He knows what he wants!", Mr. Huf later said of his interraction with Mr. Mandela.

    More judges, better educational opportunities, and the like were offered up as being helpful tools in pursuit of SDG # 16.  But, Mr. Mandela most strongly asserted that it was up to the people themselves, not judges appointed by corrupt dictators and oligarchs, to assert themselves and demand access to the clean water, medical treatment and other resources which are rightfully theirs.

    He has a point - who would simply sit there watching their child die of a perfectly preventable disease and patiently wait for a UN team to swing by and, after some years, convince the multi-millionare colonel/ President of their otherwise poor country to suddenly have a change of heart and appoint honest judges and fly in doctors, food, agriculture & water treatment specialists instead of buying that third villa in Switzerland?

    And, he makes that point with evident sincerity and passion, as one might expect given the heavy legacy he inherits from his iconic grandfather.  The SDGs are ambitious and, if only because of that ambition, useful.  But, absent people demanding responsibility for, and power over, their own futures, the progress that can be made toward the SDGs is likely somewhat limited.

    Specifically, it does not seem possible to accomplish any of the SDGs without first making serious advances on SDG # 16, given the destructive and stifling effect bad governance and political corruption consistently have on  factors necessary to achieve the other Sustainable Development Goals.  Rule of Law is, quite simply, a must for any civilzation to achieve real success, whether it be Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the Republic of South Africa, or New Jersey.  And SDG # 16 is unlikely to be accomplished without the engagement of an affected population.

    Mr. Huf expressed genuine pleasure over meeting Mr. Mandela and looks forward to similar opportunities as he tracks the progress of the SDGs at the UN as Representative (Observer) of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), particularly as and when such may impact the "corporate responsibilities" of companies doing business internationally.

    The evening with Mr. Mandela was organized by the New York City Bar Association's UN Committee, which invited the New York County Lawyers' Association's (NYCLA) Foreign & International Law Committee to co-sponsor the event.  As Co-Chairman of NYCLA's Foreign & International Law Committee, Mr. Huf hopes the success of this event provides the basis for establishing a model of cooperation between committees of different bar associations on synergetic issues of importance to the legal community and society more broadly.
  • April Showers Bring May Flowers

    By R. Jason Huf

    Its been quite some time since JHI's last Note or Comment, but that doesn't mean that there hasn't been anything to write about.  And, its certainly too much to write about all at once.

    With Ramadan just around the corner, should the usual business cycle associated with the Holy Month and High Summer come about, I will make maximum use of the time and write more often:


    April was a pretty busy month, inside the office and out.  Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030" was unveiled by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on April 25.  JHI will provide analysis of the KSA's plan for a "post-Oil" economy, and any changes to the laws of the Kingdom resulting therefrom.  We will also continue to track legal developments elsewhere in the Gulf region.

    Also, as UN Representative for an NGO, I enjoyed the opportunity of hearing United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speak about the UN's Sustainable Development Treaty, the Sustainable Development Goals, and what the private sector (including the Legal Community) can do to help achieve those goals.  This was followed by attending several open forums at the UN, and hosting a talk on 'Conflict Minerals' with an expert on the subject.

    I also moderated two very successful Continuing Legal Education panels, one on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the other an Ethics course on Attorney "Branding" for international practitioners.

    Almost forgot! In March, I had the pleasure of hosting a New York State judge who discussed the Qatari Commercial Courts after returning from his experience teaching new, young Qatari lawyers in Doha.

    More recently, after months of deliberations and conversations with colleagues and others I respect, I have come to a decision on JHI's future in the Middle East - and, beyond.

    [ for some of the backstory, click here ---> 
    JHI - The Law Firm of Jason Huf International   ].


    Further details concerning our expansion of capabilities and services, as well as the other topics outlined above, will be distributed in due course.

    In the meantime, Happy Memorial Day -- enjoy the start of summer!



     - Jason Huf
    Wednesday, May 25, 2016
    New York, NY