Paul C. Szasz - Clip 2

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Paul C. Szasz


Paul C. Szasz

Resource Type

Video Interview

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From the video archives of the Cornell Law School Heritage Project. The videographer is Thomas R. Bruce. This video covers reflections of Paul Szasz on his long career at the United Nations and how his Cornell education prepared him for that work.

From the video archives of the Cornell Law School Heritage Project. The videographer is Thomas R. Bruce. This video covers reflections of Paul Szasz on his studies at Cornell Law School, his work at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Paul Szasz was an expert in international law who made a lasting contribution to world peace. He was born in Austria in 1929. His family moved to Hungary in 1938 and then the United States in 1941. After receiving a bachelor in engineering degree at Cornell in 1952, Szasz went on to earn a master's in law, 1956, also at Cornell. He spent eight years at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna where he helped draft regulations designed to prevent the use of civilian nuclear materials for military purposes. As a lawyer at the World Bank, 1966 - 1971, he served as Secretary to the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a unique forum for settling state-investor disputes during a time when developing countries sought control over their natural resources and compensation from host states. But it was in the Office of Legal Counsel at the United Nations where he worked for eighteen years that he became most prominent, playing lead roles in the establishment of UN agencies like the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and resolving internal complaints.

After he retired from the UN as deputy to the UN legal counsel, he found himself on another world stage in 1990 when he was charged with drafting Namibia's constitution, as legal adviser to the UN Transition Assistance Group, when it sought independence from South Africa. Immediately after Namibia, as legal adviser to former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and British Lord Owen, Szasz helped draft a constitution for the new state of Bosnia as it emerged from the civil wars of Yugoslavia.

Even after these achievements he was active up until his death in 2002, as legal adviser to the World Health Organization, assisting in preparing a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Paul Szasz was a distinguished scholar and renowned teacher, having taught at Cornell, New York University, Pace,and the University of California at Berkeley. He was devoted to Cornell and also to Telluride House on campus where he lived as an undergraduate. He was one of the first and most distinguished holders of the international law specialization degree that Cornell law School initiated in the early 1950s. Always generous with assisting that program, after retirement from the UN he gave more lectures and talks in the program's speaker series than anyone in the school's history.

Paul Szasz was an authority on UN law and the law of international organizations, but he was also an expert on all aspects of international law and a prolific writer. He wrote on environmental law, humanitarian law, and international arbitration. He was known the world over for his speaking and writings as an international lawyer's lawyer, master of the minutest details of diplomatic negotiation and treaty-making.


Cornell Law School, Cornell Law School alumni


The initial phase of this project was sponsored by a generous grant from the law firm of Sutherland Asbill and Brennan LLP. Clip 2 of 2.