Gates Foundation Donates $1.75 Million to Support American Bar Association’s World Justice Project
Washington, D.C., March 14, 2007 – The American Bar Association’s charity fund has received a $1.75 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to help underwrite a project to advance the rule of law in the United States and abroad.
The World Justice Project will be sponsored by organizations from around the world that represent numerous disciplines. Current sponsors are the ABA and the International Bar Association.
“The ABA’s longstanding Rule of Law work is greatly strengthened by this generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” said ABA President Karen J. Mathis. “The ABA believes there is a direct correlation between peace, economic prosperity and the rule of law. The Justice Initiative builds on work the ABA already is doing, but gives us the tools to show empirically what we have observed over the past several decades, and to learn from that experience.”
ABA President-Elect William H. Neukom, a partner in the Seattle office of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, said that recent events at home – such as the denial of due process to detainees held at Guantanamo Bay – and abroad – such as terrorism and the threat of pandemics — show the growing urgency of strengthening the rule of law in societies around the world.
“The rule of law is the platform for communities of opportunity and equity,” Neukom said. “Whether you are a lawyer in Lebanon, Missouri, or a civil engineer in the nation of Lebanon, strengthening the rule of law will help you do your job better and bring greater stability to society.”
As one example, Neukom said, organizations that deliver AIDS drugs to Africans can enhance their effectiveness if they can operate in environments free of conflict and corruption. “The rule of law is needed to make communities safe, lift people out of poverty, root out corruption, protect people from disease and open up classroom doors to all,” Neukom said.
Neukom, who is in line to become president of the ABA in August, said the World Justice Project will consist of five near-term programs:
- Multidisciplinary outreach conferences to involve other fields in the importance of the rule of law, learn from them about how the rule of law affects their work, and create the basis for working together;
- A Rule of Law Index that will measure countries’ adherence to the rule of law and identify areas in need of improvement;
- Definitive scholarship about the relationship between the rule of law and peace, economic development, reduced corruption, public health, and accessible education;
- A public education campaign to raise awareness of the rule of law’s importance and bring it into the “mainstream” of various disciplines’ and professions’ work in the United States; and
- The World Justice Forum, a large international multidisciplinary conference where high-level leaders will share information, develop new networks, and incubate new projects to advance the rule of law.
In addition to traditional rule-of-law advocates, such as government officials, academics and nongovernmental organizations, the project will engage representatives from such fields as architecture, the clergy, education, engineering, environment, labor, media, medicine and the military.
Neukom said the project’s working definition of the rule of law includes four components: A system of self-government in which all persons, including the government, are accountable under the law; a system based on fair, publicized, broadly understood and stable laws; a fair, robust and accessible legal process in which rights and responsibilities based in law are enforced; and diverse, competent and independent lawyers and judges.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant will be paid over two years to the Fund for Justice and Education, the ABA’s charity fund.
With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people have access to a great education and to technology in public libraries. In its local region, it focuses on improving the lives of low-income families. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-Chairs William H Gates Sr., Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates, www.gatesfoundation.org.