President's Message

Service Thru the Rule of Law

Worldwide Bar Leaders Examine Timely Issues

Posted Oct 24, 2006 6:12 AM CDT
By Karen Mathis

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The rule of law is every lawyer’s concern. Without the rule of law, there is no need for lawyers or judges! By supporting and encouraging the rule of law, lawyers and judges support the concept that “the law is superior to, and thus binds, the government and all its officials.”

The American Bar Association has a proud history promoting the rule of law globally. In 1990, the ABA formed what is now called the Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative to promote the rule of law. Since then, the ABA has expanded its international initiatives to cover more than 40 countries on five continents through the Asia Law Initiative, the Africa Law Initiative, the Latin America and Caribbean Law Initiative and the Iraq Initiative. These initiatives give members many exciting opportunities to support the association’s eighth goal, to advance the rule of law in the world.

The association excels at bringing together individuals and organizations devoted to the rule of law. In September, the ABA hosted a presidential conference on the rule of law co sponsored by the International Bar Association. This two day event in Chicago took place in conjunction with the IBA’s annual meeting and the ABA’s Section Officers Conference. The symposium brought American bar leaders together with their peers from more than 100 nations.

The International Rule of Law Symposium was exhilarating. Participants discussed how the absence of the rule of law affects business and civil protections. Corruption, pirating and the lack of reliable court systems are serious impediments to building a global rule of law movement. Panels examined the importance of the rule of law in ending human trafficking, how corporate responsibility can encourage the rule of law in emerging democracies, and the intersection of the rule of law and the environment. ABA actions will continue to work toward preparation of white papers on these issues in the coming months.

Last month’s symposium was the second in a series. The first took place last November in Washington, D.C. It brought the rule of law issue to a diverse group that explored the notion that the rule of law is fundamental to fighting poverty, war, disease and terrorism. This year’s symposium continued that effort by gathering bar leaders, members of the business community, academics and others to tackle real world issues relating to the rule of law.

The faculty was remarkable. Over the two day period, attendees heard from many experts drawn from the United Nations, the ABA, the IBA and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as well as from general counsel to many corporations. The speakers included Hans Correll, former undersecretary general for legal affairs and legal counsel at the United Nations; Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, former ABA president and co founder of CEELI; Fernando Pombo, vice president of the IBA; and Patricia Wald, a former judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Global Leadership

The conversations we started at the September symposium are not over. In spring 2007, the ABA will host a conference in conjunction with ABA Day at the United Nations to further the discussions of the September symposium and to develop concrete recommendations. The goal of this meeting is to come up with a legislative program to present to the ABA House of Delegates in August 2007.

The ABA is a global leader on rule of law issues. Our Section of International Law has a long and distinguished history of building relationships with the legal professions of many countries. The Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities encourages and educates those in the legal profession as well as the general population about the need to support a just rule of law in our country. Our Center for Human Rights is a powerful advocate of human rights as an essential component of the rule of law. The International Rule of Law Symposium continued our tradition of bringing innovative ideas, creative educational opportunities and sharp talent to promoting the rule of law.

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