International Law

World Justice Project Reveals 'Rule of Law Index'


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ABA President Bill Neukom and former Romanian president
Emil Constantinescu at World Justice Forum in Vienna.
Photo by ABA staff

Anyone anxious to start chewing on the results of the initial findings of a new Rule of Law Index being developed by the World Justice Project will have to wait a little longer.

A much-anticipated report on the Rule of Law Index was delivered to attendees of the World Justice Forum, which officially convened today in Vienna.

But the report doesn’t contain actual findings of its initial test runs in the United States, Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Spain and Sweden. Rather, the report focuses on the process developed for measuring how effectively those countries—and others in the future—adhere to the rule of law in a variety of key areas.

The findings of those initial evaluations—restricted for test purposes to the largest city in each country—will be released later this year, says Mark D. Agrast, who is coordinating development of the index.

The index is a key element of the World Justice Project, according to ABA President William H. Neukom, who founded the project. The ABA is the launching sponsor of the project, which also is supported by a number of other legal groups and organizations representing other disciplines.

Speaking at a news conference at Vienna’s Austria Center, Neukom and Agrast say the report’s conclusion affirming the viability of the index’s testing format is a crucial step even though the actual findings aren’t ready to be released because they’re undergoing final analysis.

“We think this is a huge upside program that will drive the future of the World Justice Project,” said Neukom, a partner at K&L Gates in Seattle. The index findings will provide a basis for developing specific projects to further the rule of law in various countries, he says.

The inaugural forum brings together nearly 500 invited attendees from at least 95 different countries and 15 disciplines to Vienna to develop rule of law initiatives.

Neukom and Agrast cautioned that the temptation to treat the Rule of Law Index as a vehicle for rating countries on their adherence to rule of law principles is missing the point.

“This is a diagnostic tool,” says Agrast, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. “It’s not a grading system.”

Agrast and Neukom also say the index is not intended to be a tool for “calling out” various governments for shortcomings in meeting rule-of-law standards.

“We intend to be zealous but informed and constructive warriors for the rule of law,” Neukom says. “But we will also be ‘enablers’ for groups in their own communities. We all have work to do, in each of our countries.”

At the news conference, Neukom announced that the World Justice Project is creating an Opportunity Fund, supported primarily by $240,000 in seed money from the Oak Foundation in London, to provide financial support for some of the rule-of-law programs developed in conjunction with the forum.

Other speakers at the forum today included Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland who now is president of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, in Dublin, Ireland; former Romanian president Emil Constantinescu; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer; and Hilario G. Davide Jr., former chief justice of the Philippines.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be among program participants on Friday, but forum organizers announced that her fellow justice, Anthony M. Kennedy, will not be in Vienna to deliver a planned luncheon speech.

More World Justice Project Headlines:

Experts unveil index to check nations’ rule of law (Associated Press)

World’s top legal experts unveil ‘rule of law’ index aimed at measuring how nations behave (Associated Press)

Leaders in Vienna Seek Consensus; Rate Country Effectiveness on Rule of Law (ABA Journal)

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