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 Program on International Law and Armed Conflict develops real-world-based case studies. As part of each exercise, students or other participants act as senior-level decision-makers to resolve legal, policy, ethical, or operational dilemmas that arise in relation to contemporary armed conflicts. We have published case studies concerning the 2011 famine in Somalia and are developing case studies on coalition warfare and on the International Court of Justice.

[PILAC Case Studies webpage write-up last updated: June 2015]

RESEARCH ASSISTANT

 

Case Study Exercises

Somalia in Crisis: Famine, Counterterrorism, and Humanitarian Aid

“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.

STUDENT BLOG ENTRIES

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

 

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.
 

Case Studies in Development

Coalition Warfare

U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos, “120516-A-XD724-193,” Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND.

U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos, “120516-A-XD724-193,” Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND.

The Coalition Warfare case study is a simulation role-play exercise designed to elicit contemporary dilemmas and tensions that military coalitions may face in the conduct of hostilities. In particular, the case study aims to draw out tensions regarding trust and intelligence-sharing between nations of a coalition of states; decision-making regarding proportionality in targeting in cases where intelligence may be in dispute; and the challenges posed to interoperabilty by differing national approaches to the application (or not) of international human rights law (alongside international humanitarian law) in armed conflict.  

 

The International Court of Justice 

UN Photo/Andrea Brizzi, “International Court of Justice.”

In this two-session exercise, students act as judges of the World Court (also known as the International Court of Justice), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Under tight time pressure, students are required to answer a complex international law question arising from an armed conflict. In doing so, students must assess relevant facts, identify salient portions of international law, and persuasively interpret the facts in light of the law as well as relevant institutional and policy considerations.