ABA President Stephen N. Zack urged a House Appropriations subcommittee last month to maintain funding in fiscal year 2012 for rule of law activities such as those implemented by the ABA’s Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI).
“Establishing governments, legal structures and institutions based on the rule of law are necessary prerequisites to creating durable democratic societies and successful market-based economies,” Zack wrote in a March 29 statement to the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. He added that democratic regimes are less likely to engage in terrorist activity and that U.S. and other business interests are hesitant to invest resources in countries that lack sufficient commercial legal protections and independent courts to fairly resolve commercial disputes.
Zack emphasized that programs promoting the rule of law are a “valuable and cost-effective investment of U.S. dollars that enhance both the national security and economic prosperity of the nation.”
ABA ROLI, which recently celebrated 20 years of promoting the rule of law in more than 75 counties, today has nearly 700 staff, volunteers and other personnel in offices in approximately 40 countries. The ABA president highlighted ABA ROLI programs in Africa, Asia, Central Asia, Europe and Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa.
U.S. funding for rule of law programs must be utilized in partnership with local leaders, he said, and there are many benefits of delivering assistance through non-profit groups such as non-governmental organizations and private and voluntary organizations.
“Non-profit organizations such as the ABA are more likely to develop long-term relationships that build capacity and allow for sustainable assistance efforts,” he explained, pointing out that through the ABA well over $200 million in pro bono assistance has been provided by American and overseas lawyers working directly under its aegis.
Zack conveyed to the subcommittee that the ABA is aware of the tremendous budgetary challenges and difficult decisions in allocating funding. He maintained, nevertheless, that if the United States fails to invest adequate resources in this area, countries that do not share the U.S. commitment to democratic values and free markets will continue to languish and serve as destabilizing forces to the detriment of U.S. national interests.