September 24, 2009

Former UN official to discuss nation building

by Pete Rosenbery

William PorterCARBONDALE, Ill. -- William C. Potter, a principal architect in implementing the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the Bosnian War, will speak at the Southern Illinois University School of Law next week.

Potter will present “Lessons in International Law” at 5 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building Courtroom. Admission is free, and the lecture is open to the public.

Potter is the former head of the Rule of Law Department, Office of the United Nations High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina. From August 2002 until January 2005, Potter supervised and managed more than 200 judges, lawyers and criminal investigators from more than 15 different countries, according to his biography.

Potter will talk about his experiences in Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding nation building, and apply the lessons he learned there to the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Lucian E. Dervan, an assistant professor in the SIU School of Law.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the lecture. William C. Potter will be available for interviews prior to and after the lecture. To make arrangements for interviews or for more information on the event, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

Potter’s department drafted and enacted “most of the primary legal codes of the country, the complete restructuring of the court system, removing and re-selecting judicial and prosecutorial personnel throughout the country and the restructuring of the police throughout the country,” according to his biography.

“The entire legal system was being redeveloped under his leadership,” Dervan said. “As one of the highest ranking officials there for the U.N., he was instrumental in crafting policies directed toward moving the country forward.

“He has a very interesting historical perspective on the Yugoslavian crisis,” Dervan said. “He will take that perspective and relay some extremely valuable lessons regarding nation building that are particularly applicable in analyzing current strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Potter’s legal practice focused on commercial litigation, real estate, banking, corporate and governmental law. He served as a Judge Advocate General for Headquarters with the Florida Air National Guard from 1981 until his retirement as colonel in 2001. He is the author of “A Bosnian Diary, A Floridian’s Experience in Nation Building,” a 2006 book detailing Potter’s experiences in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He served as an international election judge in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1997, September 1998, and April 2000, and in Kosovo in October 2000. Potter served for six months in 1999 on active duty with the U.S. Air Force in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina as a legal adviser on matters related to civil aviation, the Standing Committee on Military Matters, and state intelligence agencies.

“This lecture will present a very timely and unique view of nation building from an insider’s perspective,” Dervan said. “Applying lessons from these past conflicts is the key to properly understanding and addressing the continuing challenges the international community faces in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, the world will continue to see conflicts that result in the destabilization of nations, and focus on restructuring and revitalizing those countries’ legal systems and jurisprudence is key to assisting them in establishing a productive and stable environment for the future,” Dervan said.

The lecture will give the audience an idea of the challenges faced with being in that kind of environment, and the importance of the international community being involved in countries that become destabilized, Dervan said.

“If we are going to be heavily engaged with troops on the ground in those countries it’s important that we have a well developed and sophisticated understanding of what it takes to be successful,” Dervan said.

Potter earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brown University in 1962. He earned a law degree in 1964 from the University of Michigan.

The SIU School of Law and the United Nations Association USA, Southern Illinois Chapter sponsor Potter’s lecture.