February 26, 2010
Last fall, 12 students participated in BU Law's new Africa i-Parliament Clinic, a manifestation of the partnership between the school and the UN’s Economic Development Office in Nairobi (UN-DESA).
We sat down with Professor Sean Kealy to discuss the clinic’s goals, student projects and future plans.
Q. How did the clinic come to be?
A. UN-DESA has an initiative called the African Parliamentary Knowledge Network (APKN). They’re trying to increase the capacity of African Parliaments to be more assertive and to be a stronger balance against the traditionally very powerful presidents and heads of states in Africa. They approached BU about having a partnership because of our strong background in promoting legislation and teaching legislation.
We’ve been working with UN-DESA and the APKN to identify clients, identify legal issues that would benefit with new legislation, and our students have been researching the problems and producing research reports for the clients.
Q. Were there any notable student projects?
A. Two students worked on telecommunications laws with the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum. It’s a regional organization that represents the parliaments of 13 countries from South Africa to Congo. Other students worked on gas and oil issues, the delivery of energy to Nigeria, vital statistics laws and economic development projects from Mozambique to Ghana.
Q. Will the clinic’s work help make actual change in Africa?
A. We hope so. The legislative process is so long it’s very difficult to start and come up with a conclusion within the confines of a semester. By using our methodology, you’ll see a change in how effective legislators [in Africa] operate. We’re promoting legislation that’s based on real research.
Q. The clinic only officially operates in the fall semester. What happens during the downtime?
A. This first semester was kind of an experiment. We went to Uganda in early February for a conference on health care laws in east Africa. There we met with the APKN people to figure out where we want to go with the clinic next fall. Students in Professors Ann and Robert Seidman’s Legislative Policy & Drafting Clinics will continue to work on African projects in the mean time.
Reported by Nora Dunne