Law students visit Maryland in academic exchange programme

Following a visit by scholars from the University of Maryland to the University of Malawi in May this year, a delegation of staff and students from UNIMA reciprocated the visit in August. The group comprised of Leader of the Delegation, Mr Chikosa Banda, fellow lecturer and Manager of Legal Clinic Alexious Kamangila, and a group of 12 students. The trip is meant to run for 2 weeks.

The group travelled to the United States as a continuation of an ongoing memorandum of understanding between the University of Malawi and the University of Maryland. Among other things, the agreement sees the two institutions sharing knowledge in the areas of Environmental Justice, Human Rights and Public Health.

Banda pointed out that there have been many benefits realized from the trip. “One of the main lessons drawn from the visit is that effective regulation is key to promoting environmental justice, human rights and public health, even in resource constrained countries like Malawi,” he said. “The students have learnt that, as future lawyers, they play a critical role in promoting sustainable development and intergenerational equity”.

One of the locations visited by the group include Chesapeake Bay, a biodiversity hotspot. The students appreciated how the lawyers at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation use legal instruments to protect the environment and to conserve nature.

The team also had a tour of the White House, the National Mall, the National African American Museum, the Capitol and the Supreme Court of America, in order to understand the Constitutional Structure of the US both from a historical and contemporary perspective, as well as the implications of the US governance structure for Environmental Justice, Human Rights and Public Health.

The students also visited the Maryland Aquarium and the Smithsonian Museum of Arts in Washington.

Their final visit was to the Environmental Integrity Project, an environmental non-profit organisation that advocates for environmental law and policy reforms and engages in public interest litigation targeting the pervasive problems of pollution in the United States. 

Apart from these visits, the students attended various classes, depending on their interests. These include classes on Environmental Law and Constitutional Law. They were also given the opportunity to present their dissertations before senior academics. The staff members also presented papers. Leader of the delegation, Chikosa Banda, presented a paper at an anchor event. The paper was entitled “Extreme Weather Events and Climate Justice in Malawi: Limits of the Existing Legal Framework”. Mr Kamangila also made some remarks on the potential role of legal clinics in addressing problems of climate justice in resource poor countries.

One of the students who went on the trip, Mukeya Chirwa, pointed out that the UNIMA students have benefited a lot from it. “The trip for us as UNIMA students represents an opportunity to learn from one of the oldest law schools in the world, especially with regard to how they conduct clinical work,” he said. “It also provides an opportunity to dive deeper into issues of climate change and public health. At the same time, we have given our colleagues at the University of Maryland a chance to see how the effects of climate change disproportionately affect the poor of Malawi.”

As part of the MoU between UNIMA and the University of Maryland, there are plans to engage in other activities such as joint class instruction, research and training programmes, faculty cooperation and exchange, student exchange, joint organisation and sponsorship of conferences, and joint publications.