Proposals to Strengthen the Rule of Law Incubated at World Justice Forum; Funding for Projects Announced
VIENNA, AUSTRIA, July 7, 2008 – During the final day of the World Justice Forum, participants of the multinational conference reported on their collaborative programs to strengthen the rule of law and thereby solve problems of corruption, violence, sickness, ignorance and poverty in their communities.
The Forum, held July 2 – 5, was sponsored by the World Justice Project, which American Bar Association President William H. Neukom founded. The conference brought together participants from 95 countries and 15 disciplines and featured Supreme Court justices, former European presidents, Nobel Laureates and other world leaders.
Two main elements of the Project were introduced by Neukom during the conference: the Rule of Law Index and the Opportunity Fund. The new Index is the first comprehensive measure of countries’ adherence to the rule of law. It evaluates 100 variables that make up the rule of law, which is a departure from other indices that measure only aspects of the rule of law, such as human rights or competitiveness. The information will enable governments, non-governmental organizations, corporations and individuals to make strategic decisions about how to spend scarce resources to address community problems most effectively.
The second prong of the Project is a $240,000 opportunity fund that will provide seed money for pilot programs developed during the Forum. Participants were encouraged to submit applications to fund multidisciplinary programs to advance the rule of law in their communities. Distributions of $10,000 to $20,000 are expected to be made for those programs.
During her opening remarks, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson addressed life in the post-9/11 world, “The extension of security policies in many countries has been used to suppress political dissent and to stifle expression of opinion of many who have no link to terrorism and are not associated with political violence.”
During his remarks at a session on human rights, Pakistani human rights activist Dr. Parvez Hassan stated, “The only thing worse than injustice, is tolerating injustice.” Hassan likened the situation Pakistan faced last year with the deposing of a large percentage of the country’s judges, to what would happen in the United States if seven of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices were stripped of power.
Former Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa Arthur Chaskalson and former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu also presented remarks during the four-day program.
During his concluding remarks, Neukom asked participants to support a statement of principles, which affirmed the belief of the body that “some nations have abandoned the rule of law” and asked “those nations to rejoin the community of nations committed to justice.” It urges the United Nations to establish a World Justice Day, at which time “all nations would reaffirm their commitment to the delivery and judgment of justice.”
The World Justice Project’s sponsors include the World Federation of Public Health Associations, People to People International, Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Chamber of Commerce, Human Rights Watch, the Association of International Educators and the American Society of Civil Engineers. The American Bar Association, the world’s largest volunteer professional membership organization, is a founding member of the project.
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.