Our Origins & Principles

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is an international development program that promotes the rule of law by working with in-country partners to build sustainable institutions and societies that deliver justice, foster economic opportunity and ensure respect for human dignity.

The ABA established the program in 2007 to consolidate its five overseas rule of law programs, including the Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (CEELI), which it created in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Today, ABA ROLI implements legal reform programs in roughly 60 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative has roughly 700 professional staff working in the United States and abroad, including a cadre of short- and long-term expatriate volunteers who, since the program’s inception, have contributed more than $200 million in pro bono technical legal assistance.

Our Core Principles

Countries that lack the rule of law very often fail to meet the most basic needs of their populations. In fact, over half of the world’s population lives in countries that lack the rule of law, consigning billions of people to lives characterized by a lack of economic opportunity, basic justice and even physical security.

Addressing this global rule of law deficit is not only the most important calling of the world’s legal community; it must also become an urgent priority for world leaders, international institutions and citizens committed to making this a just, peaceful and prosperous world.

The core principles that guide ABA ROLI’s work are:

  1. Employing a highly consultative approach to the delivery of technical assistance that is responsive to the requests and priorities of the Initiative’s local partners.
  2. Employing a comparative approach in the provision of technical legal assistance, with the U.S. legal system providing just one of several models that host country reformers can draw upon.
  3. Providing technical assistance and advice that is neutral and apolitical.
  4. Building local capacity by strengthening institutions in both the governmental and non-governmental sectors and by furthering the professional development of ABA ROLI’s host country staff, many of whom become the next generation of leaders in their countries.
  5. Providing thought leadership in the field of rule of law promotion that draws on both ABA ROLI’s extensive overseas field experience and on the resources and convening power of the ABA and its more than 400,000 members in the United States and abroad.