Invited to speak at the opening of the Second Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law, which focused on International Law in a Multi-Polar and Multi-Civilizational World: Asian Perspectives, Challenges, and Contributions, I had to reflect on the specific contributions our regional societies supposedly bring to international law. More specifically, the underlying idea was that of a regional vision or approach to international law which could be more or less rooted in a tradition. I soon realized that our regional societies could be viewed in a rather ambiguous or ambivalent way, since they could be seen as a means of promoting a regional vision as well as a means of enabling people to meet beyond the domestic scope, which is the horizon of most academics, if not practitioners, to share their views on international law at large. The two views are not entirely incompatible but they do not carry exactly the same spirit regarding the purpose of regional societies.
The ambivalence originates in the necessity we feel to justify our own existence. On the one hand, we can be very pragmatic and point out that the regional level, empirically conceived, is a sort of “critical” level to organize events and network. National is not enough any more for most countries. Global is too much. Regional is, let us say, practicable.