Executive Director's Report

A Global Presence

  • Print

The American Bar Associa­­­tion is a leader in advancing the rule of law around the world. Its international development efforts have grown exponentially since the early 1990s, when the political tran­sition in Eastern Europe created significant opportunities for legal reform. Today, the ABA’s presence in providing technical legal assistance is felt worldwide.

As noted in ABA President Michael S. Greco’s message in this issue of the Journal, the asso­ciation convened an extraordinary invitation-only International Rule of Law Sym­posium in Washington, D.C., in November. The event brought together some 400 distinguished leaders to stim­ulate a dialogue on how to work in concert to reduce global problems through the rule of law.

The call for the symposium came from the ABA’s Center for Rule of Law Initiatives and its four constituent councils: CEELI (Central European and Eur­asian Law Initiative), ABA-Africa, ABA-Asia and LALIC (Latin America and Caribbean Law Initiative Council). The symposium more than lived up to its promise and received extensive press for its impressive speakers, who included U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Andrew S. Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

A highlight of the symposium was a spirited, pro­­vocative discussion between U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tices Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen G. Breyer that ranged from the essential principles of democracy to the importance of an independent judiciary in upholding the rule of law.

In addition to President Greco, other ABA leaders participating in the event included President-elect Karen J. Mathis and immediate-past President Robert J. Grey Jr. Former ABA President R. William Ide III, chair of CEELI, served as moderator of the symposium.

Among the other participants were Hilario G. Davide Jr., chief justice of the Philippines; Ashraf Ghani, former finance minister of Afghanistan; David Byrne, former Euro­pean Union commissioner; Monica Macovei, minister of justice of Romania; Daniel Lipsic, minister of justice and deputy prime minister of Slovakia; Roberto Danino, general counsel of the World Bank and former prime minister of Peru; Juan E. Mendez, special U.N. ad­viser on the prevention of genocide; Joy Ezeilo, executive director of the Women’s Aid Collective in Nigeria; Thomas Gottschalk, general counsel of General Motors Corp.; Jonathan Fanton, president of the MacArthur Foundation; John Bohn, chairman of the Center for International Private Enterprise; and John Bellinger, legal adviser to the U.S. State Department.


In current political debates, the phrase “rule of law” is often synonymous with democracy building, but the term has wider, more far-reaching implications, which were intensively explored during the symposium. These range from the role the rule of law plays in helping foster democratic, law-respecting societies as a means of combating terrorism to its place in creating climates conducive to foreign investment and business support for economic development. Panels also addressed how the rule of law can assist in ensuring public health and fighting pandemics, combating pov­erty and cor­ruption, and preventing conflict and rebuilding societies. The critical importance of an independent judiciary, respect for human rights and access to legal systems were among the various topics discussed that cut across these issues.

Several overarching panels addressed important themes, including the ways in which multinational corporations, law firms and even small enterprises can make a significant difference in advancing the rule of law. For more information on this remarkable gathering, visit www.rolsymposium.org.

A second rule of law symposium is planned for Sep­tember in Chicago and will be sponsored jointly by the ABA and the International Bar Association.

For more information on the ABA’s rule of law programs, contact Robert Horowitz, director of the Center for Rule of Law Initiatives, at 202-662-1742; Elizabeth Andersen, director of ABA-CEELI, at 202-662-1960; Lisa Dickieson, director of ABA-Asia, at 202-662-8687; Macarena Tamayo-Calabrese, director of the Latin America and Caribbean Law Initative Council, at 312-988-5135; and Vernice Guthrie-Sullivan, director of ABA-Africa, at 202-662-1771; or visit www.abanet.org/intnat to access any of the international councils.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.