McGeorge professor receives 2020 Louis B. Sohn Award for Public International Law

Stephen McCaffrey

Stephen McCaffrey is the Carol Olson Endowed Professor of International Law at McGeorge School of Law

Professor Stephen McCaffrey has taught virtually every course with the word “international” in the title since he began teaching at University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in 1977.

"My father always stressed that the world was getting smaller and that I ought to take courses in the field of foreign affairs in college," recalled McCaffrey. "By the time I reached law school I had built up a strong interest in international law." 

In recognition of his work, McCaffrey recently received the 2020 Louis B. Sohn Award for Public International Law. The award is given each year to a recipient "who has made significant contributions to the field of international law."

The American Bar Association International Law Section presented him with the award during a ceremony via Zoom, which allowed three of his kids, one of his grandchildren, his sister and brother-in-law, and his father-in-law, McGeorge Emeritus Professor Claude Rohwer, to attend.

"It’s a profound honor and very humbling," said McCaffrey. "I knew Louis Sohn well, and aspire to everything he stood for. He is one of the truly great international law scholars and teachers.  And to be presented with an award like this by your peers is particularly gratifying."

Recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on international law, McCaffrey served two terms as a member of the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC) from 1981–1991 and chaired that prestigious body's 198788 session. From 19851991, he served as special rapporteur for the ILC's work on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses and the resulting draft articles formed the working document on the basis of which the 1997 U.N. Watercourses Convention was negotiated by U.N. member States.

At McGeorge, McCaffrey is the Carol Olson Endowed Professor of International Law and oversees the school's rich international law curriculum, which helps set it apart from other law schools.

"International law has always been exciting to students and I am happy to be able to bring real-world experience in these fields to the classroom, especially since they will be practicing in an increasingly globalized world," he said.

In 2018, McCaffrey received the Distinguished Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy for both for his lifetime of service in the development of international environmental law, and in particular for his work as special rapporteur for the International Law Commission on the preparatory work for what became the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. He also was named the 2017 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate for his unparalleled contribution to the evolution and progressive realization of international water law.