SL News: Opening of International Justice Commons Capped by an Address by Kofi Annan

March 26th, 2008  |  Published in Second Life News, SL Entrepreneur Magazine  |  1 Comment

SL staff member, Shava Nerad

By Shava Nerad

Luis Moreno Ocampo, in person as his Second Life avatar Luis MorenoOcampo, addressed a crowd of residents at the International Justice Center, last Thursday:

“How do you believe we can use this [Second Life] system to improve understanding of this idea and mobilize people and resources in the world to protect those who have nothing… This could be a very interesting tool. You have ideas how we can use this new tool?”

While about thirty residents listened intently, Ocampo, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, and Lloyd Axworthy (LloydAxworthy Witt), former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada, told the history of the founding of the International Criminal Court.

This was one event in a week of workshops, art exhibits, and speeches that celebrated the opening of Global Kids’ International Justice Commons sim on the main grid.

SL art exhibits at opening of International Justice Commons

(Photo taken by In Kenzo, USC Network Culture)

Art exhibits from over a dozen teen and adult artists, including internationally known RL artists, are still available through the end of this month, and some onward.

The International Justice Center sim is produced by Global Kids, under a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Global Kids has long been active on the Teen Grid, and its programs wash over to the main grid regularly. MacArthur has been increasingly involved in Second Life.

Thursday’s program was capped by an address by Kofi Annan, piped in from the ceremony where the MacArthur Foundation awarded him their first Award for International Justice.

Kofi Annan speech streamed into Second Life

The video brought in from a ballroom in New York City aired to a packed auditorium, full of nonprofit activists, journalists, and justice-minded residents.

“Sovereignty should not be seen as a privilege but a very heavy responsibility,” Annan intoned.

Many SL residents, and entrepreneurs in particular, have been baffled by issues involving sovereignty and international law. Although Linden Lab is in California in the US, many nations consider it to be “operating” in any jurisdiction from which residents access the grid.

As a result, United States law regarding money transfers for online gambling impacted nearly thousands of SL entrepreneurs last summer. The bulk of SL residents are in the US, but many non-US SL members residing in nations where online gambling is unrestricted cried foul.

With the second largest population of residents in SL, Germany established laws last year that led to scandals, crackdowns on age play, and a confusing series of actions regarding age verification.

The conflict between the sovereignty of a nation’s law and the boundless Internet is by no means new. Yahoo lost millions in legal action in France in the 90’s over their sales listings for Nazi memorabilia. The Yahoo defense that they could not identify the origin of each web searcher failed to convince the French courts. China and many other countries filter and censor the external Internet, jail bloggers, and journalists within their borders for online activities.

But the International Criminal Court is a special case. Multilateral groups such as the League of Nations, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization follow in a tradition less than a century old. Before then, two, or perhaps three, nations would sit at a negotiation table. The speed of travel and communications make multi-party, multi-nation, negotiations possible regarding treaties, trade – and now, criminal law.

For many, multilateral organizations are a strike at the root of sovereignty. While some liberals praise the UN, they castigate the WTO as unaccountable and lacking transparency. Others revile the UN as inefficient and wrong-headed. With so many parties involved, a multilateral organization is bound to come under fire.

Similarly, many nations fear the boundary-erasing power of the Internet, and virtual worlds may represent one of the most problematic examples of the power of international communities online to attempt to transcend national boundaries involving culture, commerce, and law.

Global Kids looks forward to working with the SL community to try to answer some of the ICC’s curiosity. As Ocampo said, “This could be a very interesting tool. You have ideas how we can use this new tool?”

As this goes to press, Global Kids is following up on Ocampo’s call to action, with a series of workshops brainstorming how residents can get involved with the International Justice Commons. While the Commons is not directly affiliated with the International Criminal Court, they anticipate bringing speakers in to discuss issues of global justice, to train citizen journalists and activists, and to create means of access for disadvantaged people around the world to reach Second Life audiences, even if it means creating a channel from SMS (cell phone texting) in remote areas of Africa into the SL grid.

Rik Riel, aka Rik Panganiban, Globl Kids coordinator

(Rik Riel, aka Rik Panganiban, Global Kids coordinator)

“We are actively soliciting interested groups who would like to host events, exhibits or trainings at the Center to be in touch with us at,” said Rik Riel, Global Kids coordinator for the IJC sim. Riel is Rik Panganiban in real life, online engagement activist and blogger at Global Kids and the IJC are a continuation of his interests from previous years. He first became involved in the Coalition for an International Criminal Court in 1994.

You can visit the International Justice Commons at

Online resources:

Global Kids:

Donate to Global Kids for their work with the IJC:


  1. rikomatic says:

    March 27th, 2008at 8:10 am(#)

    Thanks for the great story, Shava!

    We had 80-100 avatars actually present for the opening of the IJC actually.