Experiential learning

for the classroom and professional instruction

 Naz Modirzadeh, National Security Council Case Study Prototype, HLS, Fall 2014

Naz Modirzadeh, National Security Council Case Study Prototype, HLS, Fall 2014

In collaboration with the HLS Case Studies Program, the HLS Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (HLS PILAC) develops real-world-inspired case studies. As part of each exercise, students or other participants act as senior decision-makers to identify and resolve legal, policy, ethical, or operational concerns that arise in relation to contemporary armed conflicts. In 2015, we published a set of case studies concerning the 2011 famine in Somalia, and in 2018, we published a case study on civilian protection in partnered conflicts.

All of our case-study simulation exercises are designed for graduate-level (or advanced undergraduate-level) students or professionals. And all of our case-study simulation exercises are available free of cost through the HLS Case Studies Program.

[HLS PILAC Case Studies webpage write-up last updated: October 2018]

 

Case-Study Simulation Exercises

Civilian Protection in Partnered Conflicts (October 2018)

Authors

Dustin A. Lewis, Naz K. Modirzadeh, C. Danae Paterson, and Lisa Brem

Abstract

 Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay [ link ]

Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay [link]

Today, most warfare is conducted with and through partners. As of March 2017, for example, the U.S. State Department identified 68 States and international institutions that formed the coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In every partnership, each member brings its own legal interpretations, policy priorities, and military capabilities. Reconciling these disparate elements often poses significant difficulties, not least for legal advisors. While partnered warfare is by no means a recent invention, it is nonetheless vital that, in order to protect civilians, those who may be involved in or otherwise affected by such operations understand relevant risks and challenges.

This one-session case study zooms in on one of the pivotal decision points in contemporary partnered conflicts: whether or not to share intelligence with a partner. With a focus on managing legal responsibility and protecting civilians, participants are primed to quickly weigh countervailing considerations, navigate interoperability challenges, and make strategic decisions in high-pressure, time-sensitive, complex operations involving several States and non-state armed groups. While fictionalized, the simulation exercise — which involves a growing threat from a designated terrorist group to a civilian population and several States — draws from experiences of recent diverse coalition operations.

This case study’s general background document acquaints participants with foundations of the law and highlights ways to manage risk. The other case materials provide information about the simulation exercise’s setting as well as instructions for each of the simulation exercise’s six partners.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand key issues and tensions concerning protection of civilians and military effectiveness in contemporary partnered operations, with a focus on State responsibility for internationally wrongful acts and individual responsibility for international crimes; and

  • Develop and implement sound approaches to addressing those concerns when deciding whether to share intelligence—and, if so, under what conditions—among partners.

Subjects Covered

International humanitarian law, international criminal law, protection of civilians, intelligence sharing, military coalitions, terrorism, war crimes, State responsibility, counterterrorism, human rights, national security, due diligence.

Setting

Geographic: Fictionalized scenario drawn from several real contemporary armed conflict situations

Accessibility

To obtain accessible versions of our products for use by those with disabilities, please contact the HLS Case Studies Program at hlscasestudies@law.harvard.edu or +1-617-496-1316.

Educator Materials

All materials for this case study are available free of charge, including a teacher’s manual for this case study, which is available to educators and staff at non-profit institutions, as well as to for-profit trainers. Please create an account or sign in with your credentials to gain access to these materials.

 

Somalia in Crisis: Famine, Counterterrorism, and Humanitarian Aid (February 2015)

“Is the world about to watch 750,000 Somalis starve to death?” asked the New York Times in 2011. The United Nations had declared a famine in Somalia, and hundreds of thousands of Somalis set out on foot across the desert in search of food, shelter, and safety. To make matters worse, al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group, restricted access to famine-affected areas and threatened the safety of humanitarian aid groups. Aid organizations, many funded by the U.S. government, faced an ethical conundrum: they could pay a “tax” to al-Shabaab to access restricted areas and provide life-saving relief to Somalis, but this interaction might contravene U.S. anti-terrorism law.

In February 2015, PILAC published case studies on “Somalia in Crisis: Famine, Counterterrorism, and Humanitarian Aid,” including two related role-play exercises: the “National Security Council Dilemma” and the “NGO General Counsel Dilemma.” More information about each is below. All of these PILAC case studies are available free of charge to anyone who registers as a member of the HLS Case Studies website.

We encourage the PILAC community—including those in academia, government, the security and intelligence community, the humanitarian sector, or the United Nations system—to use these case studies in classrooms and for professional instruction.

TEACHING MANUALS

For the National Security Council Dilemma and NGO General Counsel Dilemma exercises, concise teaching manuals (around four to six pages) are also freely available to registered educators, non-profit instructors, staff at non-profit institutions, and for-profit trainers. To view and gain access to the teaching materials, you must create a (free) account. Note that the Case Studies Program team usually sends confirmation of your access within one business day. If you have any questions regarding access to the materials to conduct any of these published case studies, contact the HLS Case Studies Program.

INSTRUCTOR BLOG ENTRIES

Rebecca Sutton, “Experiential Learning in the International Humanitarian Law classroom,” Harvard Law School Case Studies Blog, January 19, 2018

STUDENT BLOG ENTRIES

Sabrina Bruno & Eric Blay, “Strategies for consensus-building and decision-making,” Harvard Law School Case Studies Blog, January 19, 2018

Elspeth Graham & Laura Snowdon, “Legal, political, strategic and ethical dimensions of the 2011 famine,” Harvard Law School Case Studies Blog, January 19, 2018  

Danae Paterson, “Law, Ethics, and Policy in Humanitarian Crises: A Student Perspective on New Simulations,” Harvard Law School Case Studies Blog, February 24, 2015

Katrina Younes, Rob Alfieri, & Aaron Zaltzman, “Discerning the interests and priorities of diverse stakeholders,” Harvard Law School Case Studies Blog, January 19, 2018  

 

General Background Briefing 

By Naz K. Modirzadeh, Dustin A. Lewis, and Molly R. Gray, with Lisa Brem (February 2015)

Photo credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price.

This case study provides an opportunity for students to examine the potential impacts of U.S. material-support-to-terrorism laws in the context of humanitarian crises, through the lens of the 2011 Somalia famine. This background document (A) surveys the decades of political and humanitarian crises before 2011; the rise of al-Shabaab; the history of U.S. foreign assistance, international legal obligations, and material-support regulations; a complicating Supreme Court decision; and the role of Executive Orders and government enforcement agencies. Participants are primed to problem solve, navigate potentially competing domestic and international law and policy, and make ethical and legal decisions in a high-pressure, complex international crisis.

This background document may be paired with one or both of the following participant exercises:

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the history, actors, and details of the 2011 Somalia famine and U.S. foreign assistance.

  • Consider the legal obligations of international humanitarian law and principles of humanitarian action.

  • Evaluate the objectives behind U.S. anti-terrorism measures and understand their effects on complex international crises involving designated groups.

  • Consider the pressures—sometimes competing, sometimes compounding, and other times complementary—of U.S. and U.N. policy.

 

THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL DILEMMa 

By Naz K. Modirzadeh, Dustin A. Lewis, and Molly R. Gray, with Lisa Brem (February 2015)

Anne Fox, “White House,” Flickr, CC BY 2.0 license.

In 2011, Somalia experienced a devastating famine that was all the more dire because terrorists had seized control of affected regions. Not only was it an international humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions, but due to the role of the terrorist group al-Shabaab, the situation also was perceived to threaten U.S. national security concerns. The situation warranted consideration by the National Security Council, the principal forum for issues of national security policy requiring Presidential determination. In order to develop an interagency response, the National Security Council Deputies Committee would need to investigate the issues and present, if possible, a consensus analysis to the National Security Council Principals Committee.

This two-session hypothetical role play is designed to expose students to the challenges in developing a consensus response among U.S. government agencies to a humanitarian crisis where a terrorist organization perceived as threatening U.S. security interests is involved. The issues faced by the participants, as part of a mock National Security Council Deputies Committee process, are intended to illustrate many of the same challenges addressed by U.S. government actors during the 2011 Somalia famine.

For context, this exercise (B1) must be paired with the background document “Somalia in Crisis: Famine, Counterterrorism, & Humanitarian Aid” (A), above. Instructors have the option of using an additional exercise with this case, on the legal and ethical issues faced by general counsel advising international humanitarian organizations (B2), below.

Learning Objectives

  • Explore the challenges surrounding an interagency response to a humanitarian crisis involving a designated terrorist group.

  • Understand the process of and multifaceted interests represented in the National Security Council Deputies Committee.

  • Analyze the legal, political, strategic, and ethical concerns in a complex crisis.

  • Practice building consensus and making decisions in a climate of potential legal uncertainty and rapidly developing policy.

  • Practice giving clear, persuasive presentations and drafting memoranda in teams.

 

The NGO General Counsel Dilemma 

By Naz K. Modirzadeh, Dustin A. Lewis, and Molly R. Gray, with Lisa Brem (February 2015)

Photo credit: The Open University, “Ian Roddis, Lucian Hudson and Ginny Broad,” Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

This two-session exercise is aimed at exposing students to some of the legal and ethical issues faced by general counsel advising international humanitarian organizations.

In this hypothetical role play, participants adopt the role of general counsel, tasked with providing guidance on whether the aid organization is exposed to liability in its Somalia work and how it will approach these legal, ethical, and safety challenges. Participants receive information from the organization’s Senior Policy Advisor, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Regional Director, as well as a colleague at the Department of Justice. The conflicts of interest and diverging demands faced by the fictional general counsel in this exercise illustrate many of the dilemmas faced by general counsel for U.S.-based and U.S.-funded international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) during the 2011 Somalia famine, and faced by lawyers working within INGOs in high-risk environments today.

For context, this exercise (B2) must be paired with the background document “Somalia in Crisis: Famine, Counterterrorism, & Humanitarian Aid” (A) (above). Instructors have the option of using an additional exercise with this case, on the challenges in developing a consensus response to a humanitarian crisis with terrorist involvement (B1) (above).

Learning Objectives

  • Explore the legal and ethical issues faced by general counsel advising international humanitarian organizations in complex crises.

  • Practice making decisions involving multiple stakeholders and navigating conflicts of interest.

  • Understand the difference between legal interpretations, legal assurances, organizational policy, and personal views.

  • Identify and evaluate what legal, ethical, and organizational factors general counsel should prioritize.

  • Practice giving clear, persuasive presentations, as well as drafting memoranda, risk-management plans, and due-diligence plans in teams.