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

Vance Fellows Continue Mission to Strengthen Black Leadership in the South African Legal Profession


The Vance Center's South Africa Legal Fellows Program brings lawyers from disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa to New York City to work for one-year terms at law firms and corporate legal departments.  While in New York these lawyers, called Vance Fellows, work on complex cross-border transactions, acquire new legal and business skills, and develop international networks.  After their stays in New York the Vance Fellows have returned to South Africa and become leaders in the South African legal and business community.  The program has been in place since 2002.

Currently, the program alumni are working to organize a seminar, to take place in Johannesburg in May of 2013, at which lawyers will share ideas and strategies for increasing the representation of blacks in the South African legal profession, where lawyers of color are grossly underrepresented even 18 years after the end of apartheid.  Vance Center Managing Director Elizabeth Millard was in South Africa recently, and met with several of the alumni.  She offered them the Vance Center's assistance in planning the seminar, including by arranging for U.S. lawyers versed in ways of increasing diversity in a legal environment to participate.  She also had meetings at the University of Witwatersrand School of Law, the Law Society of South Africa, and several law firms about ways in which those institutions could help make the seminar a success.  Elizabeth met as well with numerous NGOs interested in obtaining pro bono legal support through the Vance Center.


The Vance Center welcomes inquiries from New York-based law firms and corporate legal departments that may be interested in hosting Vance Fellows during the year beginning in or around September 2013.  Please contact Elizabeth Millard at

Support for Human Rights Bodies


The Vance Center recently has undertaken several initiatives on behalf of international human rights bodies:

  • The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture with legal and general research on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in connection with certain practices in health care.
  • The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with respect to natural resource extraction activities affecting indigenous peoples.
  • The chair of the UN Committee against Torture on a comparative legal analysis involving the issue of burden of proof.
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on thematic research projects.

The Vance Center works with the staff of these bodies to identify appropriate topics and engages law firms to undertake this research on a pro bono basis.  Lawyers conducting the research confer with the staff and provide a range of assistance, including analyses of specific legal questions and surveys of laws and their implementation internationally.


These initiatives arise from the Vance Center's recognition that these bodies are at the forefront of developing and enforcing international human rights law, albeit often with limited resources to fulfill their mandates.  Desk research by teams of lawyers engaged through their firms' pro bono programs can assist enormously, while providing lawyers with relevant, challenging assignments.

Highlight on the Intern: Saira Khan


Saira Khan (SUNY New Paltz Honors Program '13) discusses her undergraduate Vance Center internship experience, which was arranged through the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program: 


"It has been an honor to contribute to the Vance Center while working with a friendly, supportive, and close-knit staff that always kept me involved in all areas of their work. Staff members engaged me in meetings with other NGOs where they discussed exciting projects and possible avenues for international collaboration. Participating in these meetings and working on Vance Center programs confirmed my personal commitment to leading a career in non-profit environmental work by helping me believe in the efficacy of cross-border partnerships to address global injustices. During my internship, I provided research support as well as programmatic assistance, which has been a rewarding experience, to say the least."

Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice | |
Phone: (212) 382-6680. Address: 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036