September 30, 2014

An ABA ROLI Homecoming

By Elizabeth Andersen
Director, ABA Rule of Law Initiative

September 2014

This month, I was delighted to join the American Bar Association as the new director of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI). It is a homecoming of sorts, as I directed ABA CEELI, what is now the Europe and Eurasia division of ABA ROLI, between 2003 and 2006. And it’s good to be back.

Elizabeth Andersen

I find much that is the same. I am encountering many of the same committed and creative colleagues, both at ABA ROLI and among our donors and partners, and it has been wonderful to reconnect. I am also pleased to find a steadfast adherence to ABA ROLI’s core principles—those of providing legal assistance that is apolitical and neutral, of being responsive to our host country partners’ needs and interests, of employing comparative approaches, and, finally, of seeking sustainable long-term solutions.

But much has changed, too. To the credit of my predecessor, Rob Boone, and to my ABA ROLI colleagues, it is all for the good. The organization has nearly doubled in size, providing valuable assistance now in more than 50 countries worldwide. Our substantive focus has expanded and deepened, with ABA  ROLI programming continuing its traditional work to strengthen judiciaries, bar associations, and law schools and its emphasis on women’s rights, human rights, anti-corruption and criminal law reform. I have found that these efforts have expanded to address new challenges and priorities, such as realizing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, and guaranteeing privacy on the internet. And it encompasses important new strategies, such as bottom-up approaches to transitional justice and a significant new emphasis on monitoring, measuring and evaluating the impact of ABA ROLI programs. There is important innovation underway in the rule of law field, and it’s exciting to see ABA ROLI taking a lead in this experimentation, learning and knowledge sharing.

In sum, I am greatly enjoying my homecoming. And in the coming months, as we gear up for celebration of ABA ROLI’s 25th anniversary in 2015, I hope that the many Update readers who have been involved in our work over the years will look for ways to reconnect as well. To mark the anniversary, we anticipate a series of events in Washington, at ABA meetings, and in other fora, to mine the lessons learned from our work, to showcase current innovations and best practices and to convene our community. Watch these pages for details and join in the celebration.

Elizabeth Andersen, Director
ABA Rule of Law Initiative