It would be hard to imagine a better theme for an international conference at this time than "avoiding disaster".


          Most lawyers can play only a tiny part, as citizens, in avoiding disasters at an international level.  In a sense, our profession, we represents the alternative model for humanity in our commitment to institutions, international law, the rule of law, and the peaceful settlement of disputes.  In a dangerous world, most lawyers see the special utility of law and of the institutions of international law.


          Yet in our daily lives, lawyers also have a part to play in avoiding disasters.  Disasters in the forensic process are a blot on the image of justice.  They undermine the community's confidence in the institutions of society established to deliver justice according to law.  The forensic process engages not only lawyers but also experts in many disciplines.  Engineers when a building or bridge collapses.  Medical specialists when people suffer from injuries or disease.  Economists and business managers when corporations fail through poor control.  Solicitors, barristers, mediators and ultimately judicial officers when it is necessary to go beyond the parties to bring closure to the disaster.


          As Patron, I welcome this new initiative to bring together the central actors in disaster resolution.  I congratulate Professor George Hampel QC, Ms Felicity Hampel QC and their colleagues in bringing together a timely and useful conference in a setting likely to inspire bold thoughts.