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The Vance Center

The Vance Center strengthens democratic transition by engaging lawyers across borders to advance fundamental justice in countries undertaking legal and institutional reform. 


The Vance Center is constituted by practicing lawyers committed to providing and promoting pro bono legal service to support civil society and social justice. The Center collaborates with the committees of the New York City Bar Association, law firms, NGO's, law schools and lawyers' organizations throughout the world.


The Vance Center premises its engagement on the unique role of lawyers as agents of good governance and the public interest: independent intermediaries implementing the procedures and principles comprising rule of law and advocating for the equality and rights of individuals.


The Vance Center employs the approach to international justice developed and practiced by the late Cyrus R. Vance, prominent private lawyer and former US Secretary of State: collaborative, pragmatic conflict resolution based on ironclad adherence to honest dealing and basic human rights. 

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November 2012
 Vance Center eNotes
Welcome to the Vance Center eNotes, where you can read about our organization's latest news and developments.

Vance Center Organizes Inter-American Human Rights Pro Bono Representation Project  


Emilio Álvarez Icaza (Executive Secretary, IACHR)

Lawyers from all over the Americas gathered in Washington, DC on November 15-16 for a two-day conference on the Vance Center's Inter-American Human Rights Pro Bono Representation Project. 73 lawyers representing 42 law firms and other organizations from 14 countries learned about the inter-American human rights system and specifically how to represent petitioners before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The Vance Center co-hosted the conference with Fundación Pro Bono Chile (FPBC) and American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL), with generous funding from the ACE Rule of Law Fund.  City Bar President Carey R. Dunne opened the conference, along with IACHR President José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez and FPBC President Pablo Guerrero. Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) José Miguel Insulza addressed the conference.


The Inter-American Pro Bono Representation Project seeks to provide lawyers in private practice in the United States and Latin America with the opportunity to represent individuals and NGOs with cases before the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Elizabeth Abi-Mershed, IACHR Assistant Executive Secretary said, "the possibility of having pro bono representation from the private bar that has wonderful experience and resources would be something that would enable more people to have effective access to the Inter-American human rights system." Vance Center Executive Director Alexander Papachristou commented at the end of the conference that the attendance exceeded plans more than twofold, with participants expressing notable enthusiasm at taking on cases. The Vance Center and FPBC now are working with the IACHR staff and AUWCL Dean Claudio Grossman, among others, to connect lawyers with pro bono clients.


José M. Fernandez (Assistant Sec. for Economic and Business Affairs, US Dept. of State) and Todd Crider (Vance Center Vice Chair and Simpson Thacher partner)


Speakers at the conference included many eminent lawyers and public officials from the US and elsewhere in the Americas, including US Assistant Secretary of State José Fernandez, Colombian Ambassador to the US Carlos Urrutia, IACHR Executive Secretary Emilio Alvarez-Icaza, IACHR Commissioner Rose-Marie Bell-Antoine, IACHR Special Rapporteur Catalina Botero, former IACHR President and AUWCL Professor Juan Mendez, former IACHR President Carlos Ayala, Peruvian Ambassador to the OAS Walter Albán, and Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights Roberto Cuellar.


This November conference marked the launch of the Inter-American Human Rights Pro Bono Representation Project and was the first in a series of four more sessions to take place in Washington, DC over the next two years, along with two in Costa Rica where the Court seats. The Vance Center recently received funding from the Open Society Foundation for these sessions, as well as other support for the IACHR (see next item).  The conference benefited from the generosity of AUWCL, which hosted an opening breakfast, as well as the law firms of Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and White & Case LLP, which hosted evening receptions.


Click for more photos from the event.
Open Society Foundation Awards Vance Center with Two-year Grant


The Vance Center is pleased to announce that the Open Society Foundations Latin America Program has approved a two-year grant for the Inter-American Pro Bono Human Rights Representation Project (see previous item). This project will engage lawyers working in law firms in the United States and Latin America in support of the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  It specifically will prepare them to represent petitioners before the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  The Vance Center expects at least 140 lawyers to take on approximately 100 cases over the two-year period.  In most of these cases, lawyers from US and Latin American law firms will collaborate in the representation.  In addition, the project will support the legal staff of the Commission with pro bono research assignments related to the thematic work of the IACHR rapporteurs.  Executive Director Alexander Papachristou recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IACHR Executive Secretary Emilio Alvarez-Icasa for this collaboration.


 The Vance Center is implementing the project in partnership with Fundación Pro Bono Chile and will engage all of the clearinghouses participating in the Inter-American Pro Bono Network.  With separate support from the ACE Rule of Law Fund, the Vance Center conducted an oversubscribed pilot program on November 15-16 in Washington, D.C. (see previous article).  

New Committee Members Join Vance Center 


The Vance Center welcomes three new members of the Vance Center Committee. The Committee, which is composed of senior partners from international law firms, senior counsel at corporate legal departments, and public servants, supports the Vance Center staff on program strategy, development, and implementation.





Carmen A. Corrales


Rubén Kraiem

Lorraine S. McGowen

Carmen A. Corrales
is a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, where her practice focuses on corporate and sovereign transactions, including securities offerings by sovereign and corporate issuers and sovereign debt restructuring. She has been active in the Vance Center's Latin America Program and its women's initiatives. Ms. Corrales has been a mentor to several participants in the Vance Center's South Africa Legal Fellows Program.

Rubén Kraiem is a partner at Covington & Burling LLP, where he has been involved in many significant life sciences, banking and insurance-related acquisitions, and joint ventures in Latin America, as well as transactions in industries as diverse as telecommunications, media, real estate development, healthcare, and consumer products. Mr. Kraiem is active in the Center's Latin America Program. In addition, he is currently working on a project for the Vance Center's Environmental Sustainability Program in Mexico. 

Lorraine S. McGowen, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, has practiced in the areas of creditors' rights and bankruptcy for more than 20 years, with a particular focus on the enforcement of creditors' rights and remedies in out-of-court workouts and bankruptcy proceedings. She is active in the Vance Center's Africa Program. Orrick recently hosted a Vance Fellow under the South African Legal Fellows Program, which Ms. McGowen helps manage. She was recently honored by the NYC Bar Association as one of its 2012 Diversity & Inclusion Champions.

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