Building the Rule of Law

International Bar Association

At the conclusion of the Rule of Law Symposium held on Friday 19 October 2007, at the time of the IBA’s 2007 Annual Conference in Singapore, the Session Chair, Francis Neate, who is also the Chair of the IBA’s Rule of Law Action Group, invited the audience to answer the following three questions:

  1. How can I personally contribute to building the Rule of Law?
  2. How can my bar association/law society/firm contribute to building the Rule of Law?
  3. How can the IBA contribute to building the Rule of Law?

Nearly 100 responses were received and have now been compiled in to a report.

1. How can I personally contribute to building the Rule of Law?

At the internal level

  • Internal personal commitment to the Rule of Law
  • Respect Rule of Law principles
  • Adopt Rule of Law principles
  • Educate myself in the Rule of Law
  • Study to understand the Rule of Law

By personal commitment to general action

  • Dispense justice without fear or favour
  • Never knowingly facilitate corruption
  • Elevate anti-corruption law as a distinct legal discipline
  • Work actively in IBAHRI
  • Encourage and engage in pro bono work
  • Convince corporate leadership of the importance of the Rule of Law for corporations
  • Contribute funding to Rule of Law projects
  • Advise government and criticise where necessary
  • Promote mediation as part of access to justice

Spread the word eg:

  • Engage in Court, with policy makers, in debate, to generate Rule of Law awareness in organisations and the general public
  • Enlighten and educate others
  • Use all media outlets: make a big noise
  • Identify specific projects

By specific actions (a few examples taken from the responses)

  • ‘I will actively pursue the case on behalf of the judges in the subordinate courts in implementing a judgement I obtained six years ago, still awaiting proper implementation by the government.’
  • ‘I will promote discussion and action on making judicial appointments more independent.’
  • ‘I will continue to criticise the government through the media for its attempts to erode the safeguards enshrined in our criminal justice system.’
  • ‘I will conduct at least one pro bono case in the courts of my country each year. I will write an article on this symposium for local lawyers.’
  • ‘I will hold a Rule of Law seminar in my country (in Africa).’
  • ‘I will engage in political activity to support Rule of Law candidates.’

2. How can my bar association/law society/firm contribute to building the Rule of Law?

General principles for all participants

  • Adopt the principles of the Rule of Law
  • Work together in local joint programmes
  • Be more active in educating members in the Rule of Law
  • Submit papers to policy makers
  • Engage in Rule of Law awareness with public: disseminate information
  • Encourage and extend pro bono

Specific projects for action


  • Create a committee to enhance awareness and set up a special project on the Rule of Law
  • Help the firm to see the ‘broader picture’
  • Never accept that facilitating corruption is an inevitable part of legal practice
  • Establish a culture in which international pro bono work is accorded value and stature and compensated accordingly
  • Encourage the firm to offer pro bono services to individuals whose rights have been breached
  • Fight government moves to reduce public funding to lawyers, thereby reducing access to justice, especially to ethnic minorities
  • Firms can publish defaults against the Rule of Law, including those by government
  • Persuade law firm management to promote Rule of Law initiatives in countries where we operate
  • Support training of lawyers in these places and provide resources
  • My firm should initiate an international public law human rights committee in the bar association


  • Get involved in projects for which a ‘business’ case can be made
  • Donate to initiatives, eg, CEELI, training of judges and developing role models
  • Corporate legal departments should allow or encourage lawyers to get involved in pro bono and Rule of Law training
  • Support Rule of Law conferences by sponsorship wherever they are held


Make a stand:

  • Resist government attempts to limit self-regulation of the profession and replace it with government regulation
  • Work for reform and repeal of outdated proceedings and laws in local statutes
  • Entrench the Rule of Law in the constitutions of various jurisdictions
  • Promote judicial activism and the enforcement of courts’ decisions
  • Increase the number of public defenders
  • Judges to comment collectively on international Rule of Law issues
  • Bar Associations and Law Societies should be more public in highlighting concerns and promoting Human Rights legislation, and less money-oriented.

Offer support:

  • Identify a project (eg: ‘Best Friends’ with a struggling law society) and finance it
  • Help less fortunate bar associations with resources and moral support
  • My law society could provide financial support for lawyers to participate in training overseas lawyers in countries where the Rule of Law is weak
  • Donate money for the defence of detainees. ‘Defend the Defenders’ projects

Emphasise training:

  • Organise and build up in my country an NGO to share all the learning from IBA initiatives and implement action
  • Train lawyers in provincial practices in my country to increase awareness of international standards of human rights
  • Be more active in educating members and work closely with government
  • Offer CPD courses in human rights law
  • I will continue to advocate justice education at the university, the institute and in the training programme to be designed for judges
  • Initiate legal assistance efforts in Asia, and legal education legislation

Fight corruption:

  • Promote ethical standards in our own jurisdiction
  • Advise the government to increase remuneration and working conditions of (particularly lower court) judges and judicial officers at all levels
  • Provide a code of conduct for judicial officers
  • Punish lawyers who are complicit in corrupt dealings
  • Assure the integrity of law school and bar examinations and admissions
  • Law society should promote compliance on the part of lawyers and firms. I will work to secure this
  • ICC/LCIA/Chartered Institute of Arbitrators should establish new standards for dealing with issues of corruption

3. How can the IBA contribute to building the Rule of Law?

Continue/develop/intensify its current efforts

  • Organise increased number of regular symposia, especially in Africa and Asia
  • Develop links with emerging bars. Work more closely to share international Rule of Law practice
  • Assist developing jurisdictions in capacity-building
  • Make more active interventions
  • Speak out with a louder voice and be more explicit in condemning violations of human rights by governments and in individual cases
  • Help more young lawyers from developing jurisdictions to attend Rule of Law seminars etc.
  • Redouble efforts with bar associations to ensure active campaigning against the erosion of the Rule of Law
  • Stand up against breaches of Rule of Law by Western governments

Additional initiatives

  • Engage more with policy makers, focusing on key areas, eg, anti-corruption and judicial training
  • Put the Rule of Law on the agenda of all education programmes
  • Involve LPD committees, business and business lawyers more in Rule of Law issues
  • Work more closely with other legal organisations running Rule of Law conferences to home in on common emerging issues and disseminate information
  • Act as a convenor for pro bono initiatives using electronic techniques
  • Open up the symposia more to the general public
  • Identify indices of Rule of Law to measure state compliance and publish rankings, providing visibility for failures and successes
  • Produce a report comparing the features relevant to the Rule of Law of the world’s judicial systems
  • Scrutinise and evaluate new laws, especially where they have the object of limiting judicial independence
  • Develop an attractive ‘business case’ for promoting the Rule of Law. Make resources available through corporate donations to support national initiatives
  • Place greater emphasis in debate at conference on those societies where Rule of Law is not adhered to rather than those where it is
  • Help to support programmes by finding trainers, speakers and designing courses on justice education and ethics
  • Let observers who have been sent to monitor Rule of Law breaches report back at the next conference
  • Promote Rule of Law as an element of CSR in corporate codes of conduct
  • Produce an explanatory narrative of the Rule of Law and present it as a training session to developing bars
  • Host ‘interns’ in London from jurisdictions struggling with the Rule of Law
  • Be involved in creating a global fight against corruption, starting with values for lawyers. Identify specific Rule of Law initiatives and carry them out through task forces


  • Ensure a closer working relationship between the IBA and its members
  • Devote more resources to promoting the Rule of Law by a comprehensive set of workshops and symposia. Fund and support Rule of Law initiatives
  • Devote more staff to developing Rule of Law, especially the Judges Forum
  • Create a fund for developing countries to send more lawyers into rural areas
  • More involvement in Mongolia, Korea, Russia, India, China, Cambodia
  • The IBA should provide a more ongoing vehicle of information and dialogue beyond the Annual Conference


  • Engage world media intensively
  • Make Rule of Law activities and symposia proceedings available on the IBA website
  • Make more aggressive use of the internet on the subject of Rule of Law and human rights
  • Follow up reports of government breaches by local lawyers and write to governments
  • Provide a global database for specific legal projects that firms/bar associations can take up
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