[Karen J. Alter is Professor of Political Science and Law at Northwestern University, Laurence R. Helfer is the Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor of Law at Duke University, and Jacqueline McAllister is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kenyon College (as of July 2014).]
Many thanks to Solomon Ebobrah, Kofi Kufuor, and Horace Adjolohoun for their challenging and insightful comments our AJIL article, A New International Human Rights Court for West Africa. We are pleased to have provoked a debate about the drivers of legal integration in Africa and to see this debate linked to a larger set of literatures. We hope that this symposium will encourage others to investigate the forces that have shaped regional integration projects around the world and to use evidence from ECOWAS to inform regional integration theory in general.
Our article attempts to stay on firm empirical ground and to generate as complete and accurate an account of the ECOWAS Court’s transformation as one can have at this moment in time. But here is the rub—what does it mean to say “at this moment of time?”
There were many questions that we could not answer in research conducted only a few years after the events in question. For example, we did not interview the member state officials who debated the expansion of the Court’s jurisdiction. This was in part due to a lack of time and money, but also because doing so was unlikely to yield different or more complete information. The decision to extend the Court’s jurisdiction is recent and still contested. This makes it tricky to interview participants, whose answers may be colored by or speak to the sentiments of the day.
Someday, African scholars may write a version of the recent book The Classics of EU Law Revisited, which examines foundational ECJ rulings fifty years later. The passage of time allowed EU historians to access personal archives and analyze the views of key individuals, and thereby reconstruct what happened before, during, and after these rulings. We look forward to the day that our account of the ECOWAS Court is similarly dissected. For now, here are our tentative answers to some of the questions raised in this symposium.