Op-Ed: Multidisciplinary Collaboration Critical to Solving World’s Problems
A quick read of recent headlines shows that communities around the world are grappling with many seemingly intractable problems. In Myanmar, aid workers cannot get essential supplies to thousands of people whose lives were devastated by Cyclone Nargis. Food shortages have become a crisis in countries such as Haiti, where the agricultural economy is in shambles, and Nigeria, where pirates have crippled the fishing economy.
In the United States, as we celebrate Independence Day, we are grateful for the freedoms and rights that have largely withstood for more than 200 years. Yet, we are not free from our own breakdowns in the rule of law. Our government has held detainees at Guantanamo Bay for six years without charging them with explicit crimes. In too many instances, we are not providing civil legal services to poor people, and the attorney client privilege continues to be threatened, eroding clients’ rights.
One reason for our slow progress in addressing breakdowns in the rule of law is that we do not treat these problems comprehensively. Until we collaborate – on issues such as bribery in contracts, environmental protections, and discrimination in property rights or education — to repair and strengthen the framework of our societies, we will continue to make only halting progress.
Recognizing the fundamental reality that teamwork is essential, a group of organizations representing members of various disciplines around the world has launched the World Justice Project. Co-sponsors from business, education, engineering, faith, human rights, labor, law, public health, public safety and the sciences are joining in the effort to strengthen the rule of law, within their nations and across borders. This week, more than 500 participants from 15 disciplines and 95 countries will gather at the inaugural World Justice Forum in Vienna to further these efforts.
In order to determine exactly where deficiencies occur, the project also will unveil its Rule of Law Index, a tool to comprehensively assess countries’ adherence to the rule of law. The index is being run in Australia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, India, Nigeria, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. The World Justice Project expects to run the index in 100 countries over the next two years. Index data will allow governments and civil society to make informed decisions about how to invest scarce resources to address the most egregious problems in their communities.
The project will provide seed money for several of the programs designed at the forum, tested in the field and reviewed at the next forum. As a result of earlier programs on five continents, projects in Africa in such areas as labor rights, women’s rights and public health, have been funded. The status of the projects will be reviewed at the forum.
Almost every region in the world deals with violence, poverty, corruption, sickness and ignorance. Together, we can do more to address these problems by mounting a multidisciplinary, multinational movement to strengthen the rule of law.