The first is at left. It’s a favorite feature of transatlantic flying these days, the seatback map by which the white silhouette of a jet tells passengers where they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re headed. This one especially caught the eye because of the markings accompanied by years. No, that’s not Egypt relocated to France’s western coast, but rather an indication of where a ship named Egypt sank in 1922. Many such shipwrecks were noted along the way: of historical significance to be sure is Lusitania 1915 to the left. But for the international lawyer, perhaps greatest interest is Alabama 1864, in the channel between London and Bayeux. As a Confederate ship outfitted by the British, the Alabama plied European waters to harass Union ships. That behavior and its sinking gave rise to a landmark dispute settlement proceeding known as The Alabama Claims. In the words of the U.S. Department of State:
The peaceful resolution of these claims seven years after the war ended set an important precedent for solving serious international disputes through arbitration, and laid the foundation for greatly improved relations between Britain and the United States.
The early years of international law also surface in the emblem at right, located in what is now the Geneva, Switzerland, headquarters of the United Nations. The premises initially housed the 1st effort to construct a global intergovernmental organization aimed at promoting peace and security. Founded just after World War I, that organization did not survive the tragedy of World War II. Yet its legacy lives on not only in its successor organization, but also in architectural flourishes like this bilingual monogram: “LNS,” for “League of Nations / Société des Nations.”
The final set of signs, below, were found in a grand assembly room of the U.N. Geneva building. Organizers were preparing for a large gathering related to the World Health Organization – hence the caduceus affixed to the golden U.N. emblem above the dais. But the most interesting signs are those in the foreground. It had not occurred to me that the 2 entities recognized as U.N. nonmember states would be so situated at such meetings. Not the least because of the imminent journey of Pope Francis to the Middle East, the notion of delegates from entities as different as the Holy See and Palestine sitting side by side both comforts and fascinates.