Dr Matthew Parish is the Managing Partner of Gentium Law Group.
Dr Matthew Parish is a lawyer and scholar of international relations, ethnic conflict and civil war, and a former UN peacekeeper. He is known for his writings about the politics of the western Balkans and his critiques of the international community’s role in securing peace in the region, as well as his commentaries on frozen conflicts in Eastern Europe and ethno-religious disputes in the Middle East. He has written and spoken on civil wars, post-conflict development, and international security policy issues across the globe. He has published two books and over 150 articles, and his writings have been the subject of widespread commentary in the international media. He is also a well-known lawyer within Switzerland, his adoptive country, and the law firm he founded, the Gentium Law Group, has been named by the principal leading peer-reviewed journal in the field as one of the top one hundred law firms worldwide. One of his colleagues called Matthew “a ferocious advocate and probably the worst enemy in a lawsuit that one could ever have”.
Matthew was a key supporter of and Chief International Political Advisor to Vuk Jeremić in his campaign to be the next UN Secretary General 2016 United Nations Secretary-General selection. After intense debate and negotiation Jeremić rose to be the second-ranked candidate overall in the process, coming just behind Antonio Guterres in the UN Security Council’s deliberations. Subsequently Matthew extended his congratulations and personal and professional support to Guterres. Parish gives frequent interviews and commentaries about UN effectiveness, accountability and reform.
Matthew is an international lawyer and the Managing Partner of Gentium Law Group, an international arbitration practice that works across the world. He was formerly Chief Legal Adviser to the International Supervisor of Brčko District, a region of northern Bosnia and Herzegovina run as a protectorate by the US Government since 1997. His first book, A Free City in the Balkans, describes his experiences in that role and offers reflections upon the work of the international community in post-war Bosnia and beyond. Matthew previously worked in the legal department of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Washington, DC. He is an English-qualified lawyer, a member of the Swiss bar and a New York attorney, and teaches or has taught or presented at dozens of universities across the globe. He is an Honorary Professor-elect at the University of Leicester, in comparative civil law and common law systems of litigation. Matthew was elected as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in 2013 and has been named as one of the 300 most influential people in Switzerland by Bilan magazine.
Matthew has been described as “the quintessential political lawyer”, and he is one of the most widely cited lawyers in the international media and academic journals. In Geneva Matthew is known for having taken on a series of high profile cases relating to UN and public corruption and misconduct, and is an outspoken advocate of UN accountability and reform. He is also renowned for accepting and fighting for some of the most difficult and politically contentious cases in the international arena, and for choosing both his staff and his mandates with great care. He has been called “the most colourful lawyer in Swiss legal practice”.
Matthew’s book Mirages of International Justice advances a constructivist account of international law. According to the theory developed in Matthew’s book, international tribunals proliferate not because states want to see international justice done but because they want to associate themselves with the ideals captured in discourse about international law without making any irrevocable commitments in times of extremis. The world of international relations therefore remains an anarchy, but one that operates within an albeit flexible structure. International courts (and indeed international organisations in general) are part of a system of ideas that the world is ordered in accordance with moral principles, but those ideas sometimes crack in the face of the actualities of inter-state conflict. Matthew is also a scholar of the jurisprudence of both the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and international criminal law in general.
Matthew has given evidence to both the European Parliament and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US Congress on issues relating to international organisations and international law. Matthew is an advocate of abolishing restraints upon trade, and a proponent of free-market economics (albeit while always having regard to the social consequence of unrestrained economic activity). He argues that international investment, and international law, are both consequences of free trade and the modern globalised economy. The solution to the world’s contemporary travails may require innovation and novelty in light of the unique new challenges facing the international community by virtue of exponentially expanded opportunities for ever more affordable international travel. But it does not entail a reverse to the philosophy of Smoot-Hawley. The challenge of international cooperation in the contemporary age is to find solutions to new problems that have not existed before, and not to be distracted by propaganda or simple demagoguery, however important those activities might be in certain domestic political contexts as short-term solutions to pressing local or regional political crises.
Matthew attended Harrogate Grammar School before he moved to Cambridge University where he is a graduate of Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he obtained a Triple First-Class Honours degree in Philosophy; and of the University of Chicago Law School, where he obtained his LLM (in which he came top of his class) and his subsequent doctoral JSD degree under the supervision of Richard and Eric Posner. From 2009 to 2010 he was a Fellow of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law with whom he pioneered study of the political economy of international courts and tribunals.
Matthew is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and was formerly a Senior Non-Resident Fellow of the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development. Matthew continues to serve as a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Comparative Law and he is a member of the Society of Legal Scholars. Matthew is a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, with whom he remains a member of the Denning Society for scholars of the Inn. He holds two Inn scholarships: the Lord Eastham Scholarship for academic excellence in English law; and the Jean-Pierre Warner Scholarship for excellence in EU law. He is also a member of the Swiss Arbitration Association. Matthew formerly worked as an intern for Advocate General Sir Francis Jacobs at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. He was latterly Chair of the International Law Association’s New York Committee on the Accountability of International Organizations, and a sometime member of the Advisory Council of the Gender Equality Project, a Geneva-based NGO committed to promoting equal gender rights across the private and public sectors. Matthew formerly served as a member of the board of advisors to The Shelter Centre, a Geneva NGO devoted to providing emergency housing to persons suffering in the aftermath of natural catastrophe.
Matthew was born in Leeds, in West Yorkshire in the north of England. His parents both attended the University of Oxford. His father was a groundbreaking biochemist who wrote one of the pioneering works on nucleic acids that form the structure of our DNA. His father also edited the Oxford Dictionary of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. His mother was a social worker who worked amongst some of society’s most deprived under conditions of medical suffering and uncertainty. Matthew’s Grandfather was a pioneering engineer with the major British manufacturing company Reckitt & Colman (now Reckitt Benckiser). Matthew’s Grandmother was a headmistress in a Methodist School promoting the welfare and education of the poor and disadvantaged. Matthew’s cousin, Christopher Parish, was one of the twentieth century’s leading open heart surgeons who learned his skills in the Battle of El-Alamein in World War Two as he operated as an army field surgeon upon the wounded of both sides in difficult conditions. One of the principal buildings at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, England, a major centre for British cardiology, is named after Christopher Parish. The strong moral imperatives of the Parish family, whose history stretches back at least as far as the fifteenth century, continue to inform Matthew in the determination and decency that he tries to ensure influence the decisions he makes every day in his professional and public life.
In his private life, Matthew likes to read, write and spend time with his children. He is a lover of fine wines and cognac; of the study of history; of foreign travel; and of reflective and self-critical conversation with intellectually curious minds.
“Although we may see further, we stand on the shoulders of giants.”