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Our Origins & Principles

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is an international development program that promotes justice, economic opportunity and human dignity through the rule of law.

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.

For more than 25 years, and through our work in more than 100 countries, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and our partners have sought to strengthen legal institutions, to support legal professionals, to foster respect for human rights and to advance public understanding of the law and of citizen rights.

In collaboration with our in-country partners—including government ministries, judges, lawyers, bar associations, law schools, court administrators, legislatures and civil society organizations—we design programs that are responsive to local needs and that prioritize sustainable solutions to pressing rule of law challenges. We employ rigorous and innovative monitoring and evaluation approaches in assessing the quality and effectiveness of our programs.

ABA ROLI has roughly 500 professional staff working in the United States and abroad, including a cadre of short- and long-term volunteers and legal specialists, who in fiscal year 2017 alone contributed $1.34 million in pro bono legal assistance.

Our Core Principles

  1. Partnership. We employ a highly consultative approach to the delivery of independent, professional technical assistance, working with justice sector colleagues and local stakeholders to develop programs that are responsive to their needs and interests.
  2. Empowerment. We provide people with the legal information, resources and assistance to defend their rights, access justice and hold government accountable.
  3. Inclusivity. We work to eliminate bias and to ensure that marginalized groups have access to justice and public participation.
  4. Universality. We look to comparative and international law to identify universal standards and global best practices, with the U.S. legal system providing just one of several available models.
  5. Sustainability. We pursue strategies with lasting impact, including expanding citizen awareness, strengthening local capacity in the governmental and non-governmental sectors and furthering the professional development of our host country staff, who will become their country’s next generation of leaders.