Closing remarks from IBA President Horacio Bernardes Neto

Thursday 26 November 2020

Dear colleague,

As the IBA 2020 - Virtually Together Conference concludes, I just want to send a brief note of gratitude to all who contributed to its success! And, if you did not participate, to let you know that some of the sessions that were open to paying and non-paying delegates alike are available to watch on the IBA website at www.ibanet.org. Please do visit.

With the Covid-19 pandemic thwarting travel plans, and bringing about the postponement of this year’s Miami, Florida location, the IBA brainstormed the possibility of holding its Annual Conference solely online. It had never been done before in the history of the IBA. With the complexity of planning sessions and creating a networking environment, was it even possible?

Well, not only did we do it, it exceeded all expectations! The more than 300 working and networking sessions attracted record registrations, doubling to 12,000 from the previous high. This full-scale month-long virtual conference brought together delegates from 160 countries who could participate from wherever they were located in the world. It is probably our most diverse audience ever. Through this virtual medium, we have expanded the reach of the IBA.

The IBA’s Committees embraced the challenge presented by these unprecedented times and, together with dedicated IBA staff created a wonderfully varied conference. IBA Committees produced more than 250 sessions of the highest quality covering a huge range of specialist subjects and practice areas for the event spread over four weeks, from 2-27 November. Committee Officers attracted more than 1,000 speakers who imparted knowledge and wisdom. I am so grateful for the efforts of Officers and speakers who enriched our event.

As I reminisce, I think about the Conference’s Opening Ceremony, and the United Nations former Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon talking about ‘justice, equality and the rule of law’ and being ‘deeply concerned by attacks on lawyers around the world’. On the same day, I think about the frank and inspiring interview with the former United States Secretary of State John Kerry. Later that week we heard from Martin Luther King III who reminded us of the importance of human rights and how much work is still needed, as did Kerry Kennedy carrying on the work of her late father Robert F Kennedy, but a fully established human rights activist in her own right. And Mary Robinson of the renowned group ‘The Elders’ talked with us about climate justice and hope for our world. It was wonderful to learn so much, and all from the comfort of home!

As always, networking was a large part of the Conference experience, and I was delighted to ‘meet’ so many newcomers, as well as old friends through the some 100 networking sessions. Initially, I wondered whether networking in this virtual world would be effective, but I was so pleasantly surprised as to how simple a process and enjoyable the encounters were. The closest thing to in-person meetings.

With the end of my presidency drawing close on 31 December, all that remains for me to say is that it has been an honour and privilege to have been at the helm of this wonderful organisation for the past two years and to thank all IBA members, for the many wonderful experiences I have had as IBA President. I wish my successor, Sternford Moyo, every success in his presidency.

I hope we all have the opportunity to meet again in-person before too long.

Horacio Bernardes Neto
President, International Bar Association