Professor Julio Barberis passed away last April. He was one of the most important water lawyers, the disciple of Guillermo Cano, founding father of AIDA.
I could not say that I knew Julio Barberis well, in that I did not meet him often. Yet, the few times I met him he had left a very strong impression on me, the impression of someone good, patient, modest, rare qualities among brillant, bright and successful men like him. A highly quoted international law professor, a well respected judge, a high-ranking diplomat, a much requested water law consultant, an immensely productive author, he did well in all sectors, universities, Government, IGOs, Diplomacy. One could recall for instance that Prof. Barberis was one of the pioneers of international water law as it applies to groundwater ( “International Groundwater Resources Law”, 1986, FAO Legislative Study No.40). He was an excellent linguist, and his french language – diplomatie oblige – was at the level of his spanish mother tongue.
His performance at the United Nations Water Conference of Mar del Plata in 1977 was unforgettable. Leading the delegation of his country, Argentina, in Commission II dealing with institutional and legal matters, he patiently forced through a paragraph of the final Declaration. Paragraph 3 (g) was a strong appeal for international co-operation in the development of shared water resources. This was the time when Brazil had entered into the huge Itaipu scheme without any intention to compromise its full sovereignty over its inland waters. Brazil was led by a brilliant diplomat, Marco Azambuja, in the pure tradition of the world famous Brazilian school of diplomacy. The Argentina/Brazil fight almost became a contest between the soft-spoken, low-key Julio and the flamboyant, extrovert Marco. The roll-call vote became unavoidable. Against all odds, “Julio” won 29 to 13 for “Marco”, with 48 abstentions. Julio remained totally modest in his triumph, a small, soft smile on his face.
He was a gentleman and a top water lawyer. The international water law community will miss him dearly.
Honorary Chairman, AIDA