“I have yet to meet a contestant in the Concours Pictet whose face does not light up when they recall the experience,” professor Françoise J. Hampson once said. As law students who recently participated in the competition, we tend to agree with this statement.
Law students from around the world took part in this weeklong moot on international humanitarian law. This year, it was held at Drakensberg National Park in South Africa from April 14 to 21. We represented the Université Laval.
We were required to draft a two-page legal memorandum and apply the principles of international humanitarian law to a situation that practitioners would face in the field.
Of all 47 teams, only three had the chance to participate in the final: two teams from the anglophone session and one team from the francophone session. This year, Belgium’s Université Libre de Bruxelles took home the Pictet cup.
This might sound unfair to all the teams that invested months of work to perfect their skills in international humanitarian law, but the spirit of the competition is not about winning a cup but rather about law students’ growth and maturity. In the spirit of the Pictet, rather than compete against one another, the teams are able to work together.
Members of the organization have one primary goal in mind for the participants: to take the law out of books by simulating and role-playing. The jury is then mostly looking for groups that best embody the principles of international humanitarian law such as sharing, listening, teamwork, and humanity.
Participating in the moot is a prize in itself. We had the opportunity to meet other youth who are passionate about international humanitarian law and well-known academics from around the world.
It is not uncommon to come across young people dressed as soldiers, running as fast as they can as they drag along suitcases full of books to get to their next simulation. The next day, the same people could be seen wearing ties and dresses as they learn the facts and their roles only an hour before performing in front of the jury.
Our group was rather heterogeneous; we do not come from the same culture and we are far from having the same academic background. For instance, Isabel Charron is currently doing a master’s in international and intercultural communication after completing a bachelor’s degree in international relations and international law at the Université du Québec à Montréal; Elise Paiement, a third-year law student, had never come across a Geneva Convention; and Morgane Aroua is completing a master’s in international law as an exchange student from France. However, our differences were complementary.
Even though we left without a cup, the connections and friendships that we formed will last a lifetime, making this a truly worthwhile experience!
Isabel Charron, Morgane Aroua, and Élise Paiement are law students at the Université Laval.