2020 Kyoto Conference (online)

22 September 2020

Greetings from the ILA Japan Branch. We had been looking forward to welcoming you to the historic city of Kyoto in August for the ILA 79th Biennial Conference. However, the worldwide spread of the Covid-19 made that impossible. So, after close consultations with the ILA Headquarters, the decision was made not to hold it as scheduled. At the ILA Executive Council in May 2020, a consensus was reached that the Closing Plenary Session of the Biennial Conference would be held, instead, online on Sunday, 13 December 2020. That is the very date on which the Japan Branch was founded 100 years ago. It was further agreed that the online conference would still be called the 2020 Kyoto Conference.

The main theme remains "Bridging for the Future". The Kyoto Conference is intended to bridge the past, present and future while connecting the East, West, North and South. Japan’s fundamental foreign policy is to establish and strengthen the rule of law in international relations, and I trust that the Kyoto Conference will contribute to promoting this goal.

The Japan Branch had planned to organize more than 20 panels covering various fields of international law in addition to the ILA Committees and Study Groups. Although constraints of the online system required a more modest approach, the Japan Branch and the ILA Headquarters are collaborating closely to organize Committees and Study Groups open sessions totaling up to about 14 meetings as well as several parallel panels, with one day designated as “Young Scholars Day”. These events will take place in the two weeks after the Opening Plenary Session, which is currently scheduled for Sunday, 29 November 2020.

For more than two years leading up to this May, the Japan Branch had spent a significant amount of time, as well as human and financial resources, preparing for the originally planned August Kyoto Conference. The unavoidable switch to the online format made much of that planning moot and created additional difficulties, especially in finance and conference organization. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the ILA Headquarters and many Branches for kindly understanding our difficulties and offering various forms of help including financial assistance.

The Japan Branch is now making every effort to prepare for a fruitful Biennial Conference online. The online format presents a new challenge to all ILA members, and many difficulties must be overcome. In my view, one positive aspect of going online is that it opens the doors of the ILA Biennial Conference, and even those of the ILA itself, to a wider range of participants, especially young scholars and practitioners, without requiring expensive international travel.

I very much regret the loss of the opportunity to host ILA members, family, and guests from abroad in the beautiful city of Kyoto. I earnestly hope that another chance will arise for us to do so in the near future.


Shunji Yanai
President, ILA Japan Branch