Virtual Institute's Spanish partner, the Fundación Centro de Educación a Distancia para el Desarrollo Económico y Tecnológico (CEDDET), reports great success with the capacity building activities developed under a project grant from the Vi made possible with funding from the Government of Spain.
The project, running from October 2011 to October 2012, involved the delivery of an online course on international economic law and the development and facilitation of an expert network on the topic.
The first activity took place October 10 to December 11, 2011, when the online course, "Legal Instruments of International Economic Relations and Regional Integration," trained 30 academics and government officials from 25 countries (see story in the Vi newsletter of December, 2011).
The second activity was launched in January, 2012, with the creation of the International Economic Relations Network (IERN), a virtual professional group aimed at providing further training and networking opportunities to graduates of the online course and students of the University of Barcelona's (UB) Master in International Economic Law and Policy (IELPO), among whose graduates are several Vi members.
The first three months brought the 134 network participants an online discussion on foreign direct investment rules and a working group on developing countries' agenda for the international economic relations system. The debate gathered 20 contributions from 14 IERN participants; 20 experts participated in the working group.
In April, participants from five countries debated the implications of withdrawing from bilateral investment agreements (BITs), discussing recent cases in Argentina and Ecuador.
In June, the network sponsored "Refocusing the System of International Trade Relations," an online workshop led by Roberto Bouzas, of Argentina's University of San Andrés. The workshop, which admitted 21 participants, aimed at analyzing the feasibility of Doha round efforts to move forward the trade liberalization process as governments implement protectionist measures to cope with the effects of the world economic crisis.
In May and June participants took on the issues of the role of the WTO in the context of the Doha round, and the proliferation of Preferential Trade Agreements within the multilateral trading system. Network members from Argentina, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Switzerland, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom contributed nearly 140 posts to the two discussion forums.
After the summer break, the network continued its examination of foreign direct investment rules, based on contributions presented at the Biennial Conference of the Society of International Economic Law held in Singapore in July.
Closing the network's activities under the Vi grant was a thematic forum on regional integration, held September 24 to October 8, for the now 185-member expert group.
Network leader, Vi core member coordinator, Ramon Torrent, of the University of Barcelona, says plans are underway to relaunch IERN activities including the latest graduates of the online course.