Diplomat Matthew Hodes on International Law Lessons Learned at Miami Law


In a reflective mood, Matthew Hodes, who became a diplomat and mediator in war zones around the world after graduating from Miami Law in 1982, explained during a recent visit to his alma mater how well law school had prepared him for the career he ultimately chose. Hodes, whose service to the United Nations included conflict resolution in war-ravaged places such as Somalia and the former Yugoslavia, had always had an interest in international relations, but said he had no idea that he would become as involved in the field as he did.

Law school, he said, helped him acquire an understanding not only of his place in the world but of how the system of law and justice "affects the average person." But he admitted with a laugh that he was fairly green when he enrolled for what he described as the "big challenge" of his first year at Miami Law. "I think of the three years here sort of as a continuum from confusion to enlightenment," he said.

No sooner had he graduated, however, did he realize that "there's something terribly unstructured about real life" when compared to the orderly, scheduled regimen of a campus setting. Still, Hodes went on, he knew that what he had learned in the classroom would inform "so much of what you think about concepts of fairness and justice as you move forward."

Hodes, the Executive Director of the Partnership for a Secure America, made the remarks during a videotaped interview at Miami Law after a lunch with Dean Patricia D. White and Georgina Angones, Assistant Dean for Law Development and Alumni Relations.

With more than 20 years in the international relations field, Hodes possesses an extensive understanding of mediation and negotiation in high-level political settings, political risk analysis and strategic advice. He has been actively engaged in peacemaking, peacekeeping and post-conflict nation-building.

In 2010, he was the Director of Programs at the Club de Madrid. In that capacity, he directed projects for an NGO composed of former heads of state and governments, with a focus on leadership issues in transitional societies. He worked in Haiti and Kyrgyzstan on projects that addressed women's participation in peacemaking, climate change and the development of socially cohesive societies. From 2001 to 2007, he worked in the Conflict Resolution Program at the Carter Center in Atlanta, and served as the Director there from 2003 to 2007. He provided advice to former President Carter on armed conflicts and political disputes around the globe, while leading negotiation sessions on behalf of the Carter Center in various countries, including Venezuela, Nepal and Guyana, and in the effort involving Israel and the Palestinian Territories known as the Geneva Initiative. He has also worked as a consultant to public, private and philanthropic entities overseas.

During the Balkan wars of the 1990's, Hodes participated in cease-fire negotiations and fact-finding missions for the U.N., and provided policy and legal advice to senior U.N. officials. In 1995, he opened the first Sarajevo office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and returned to Sarajevo in 1999 to work for the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia. An experienced lawyer, Hodes has served as both a prosecutor and public defender in Miami. He is a U.S. Army veteran, and has taught at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and at Emory University Law School.