While our country celebrated the anniversary of its independence, world leaders and rule of law experts from 112 others converged on Vienna, Austria, as presenters and in the four day World Justice Forum. Hundreds of leaders from diverse disciplines gathered officially to launch the World Justice Project, a multidisciplinary, multinational movement to strengthen the rule of law as a foundation for healthy communities.

Keynoted by ABA President William Neukom, former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and former President of Romania, Emil Constantinescu. Attendees and presenters included past and present heads of state, leaders of business, industry, labor, educational and nongovernmental organizations. The forum featured discussions on multidisciplinary approaches in the advancement of the rule of law.

Can non-lawyer groups make significant contributions in advancing the rule of law in the United States and other nations?

Topics covered included panel discussions on peace and prosperity, and poverty reduction. The long list of topics also included education, access to justice issues, the environment, multidisciplinary approaches in Africa, medicine and public health, faith, military and public safety, business and finance, law and the judiciary, arts, human rights, architecture and engineering, labor, media, property rights and government and politics.

In his June 2008 President’s Message in the ABA Bar Journal, Mr. Neukom asks and answers:

Is it significant that such divergent organizations are joining lawyers and judges in focusing on the rule of law? And can non-lawyer groups make significant contributions in advancing the rule of law in the United States and other nations?

Emphatically, the answer is yes.


He goes on to say:

As defined by the World Justice Project, the rule of law is of prime importance to virtually everyone.

The rule of law is based on four principles: (1) the government and its agents are accountable to the law; (2) laws are clear, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including property and personal security; (3) laws are enacted and enforced through an accessible, fair and efficient process; and (4) laws are upheld, and access to justice is provided by competent, ethical and independent enforcement officers, lawyers and judges.

Experience shows these conditions correlate closely to economic and political freedom. They also directly support such essential needs as health, education, physical security and basic human rights. And importantly, they are universal, not related to any one nation’s values or legal tradition.

The WJP presented its newly created Rule of Law Index and the results of Index field testing in India, Chile, Nigeria and the U.S. The Rule of Law Index does not rank countries on a scale. Instead, it offers comprehensive snapshots of how governments and court systems are performing, based on interviews with local experts and with 1,000 randomly selected citizens in any given nation.

If you’ve not read it yet, read President Neukom’s message online at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/a_foundation_for_healthy_communities/.


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