Growing Pains

We have been under a blanket of snow for over two weeks here in Belgium. The Belgians have promised me that this is abnormal, but the cold streak is supposed to continue into the weekend. It’s alright with me though because this has given me plenty of chances to visit cafes to stay out of the cold and sample le pain au chocolate and croissants. If my luggage isn’t overweight coming back to the U.S., I might be!

Every Tuesday in the office we have a meeting with all of the legal personnel on SHAPE and their supporting staff. This is an opportunity to share with the group what everyone is working on and what lessons can be learned from ongoing projects. A common theme with these projects is the difficulty with securing funding. I know Tom wrote about this last semester, but it’s worth further explanation. Many projects are long-term because working with so many states takes time. Often, though, relatively short-term contractors are brought in to supplement permanent staff. This results in gaps in staffing as the contractors finish their terms and the divisions wait for NATO to approve more funding for personnel to continue the work. Funding is a very real issue at NATO because of the global economic situation. Member and contributing states, quite predictably, consider their needs at home first and reduce their capacities abroad accordingly.

One goal of the ACT SEE legal office is to increase the sharing of knowledge and resources. Working with legal advisors across the globe has its own unique challenges and sometimes makes it difficult to know what information is already out there. To prevent the reinvention of the wheel, the office has been developing the Comprehensive Legal Overview Virtual Information System (CLOVIS) for more than a year now. CLOVIS is essentially a research platform that connects legal advisors throughout the world and it feels to me like a content-specific version of Lexis Nexis or Westlaw. CLOVIS makes it easier to find information and collaborate on projects by providing workspaces, blogs, private messaging, and materials organized by topic. Like any new product, a major hurdle is developing interest in the program and training users. Recently, two members of the office travelled to Kabul, Afghanistan to work with International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) and train the legal team stationed there. The training was well-received and this trip represents a very positive step for the program. CLOVIS, however, also has to deal with funding challenges.

This past weekend I was invited to a friend’s house for a reclette. Similar to fondue, a reclette involves melting cheeses on dried meats and potatoes. Traditionally, a large block of cheese was propped up next to a fire and when it got hot enough the cheese would be scraped onto a dish. We enjoyed a more modern version sans fire. To try and give you an idea of what it is like, everyone gets their own small tray to fill with ham or salami, potato wedges, and a cheese of your choice. The tray then goes in between two heating elements and in a few minutes the tray is hot and the cheese is melted. You can then put the contents of the tray on your plate and prepare a new try so that once you have eaten what is on your plate the next tray is just about ready. The whole thing was quite delicious and made me want to promptly take a nap!

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