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November 30, 2016

Investing in the People Behind the Change

Director, ABA Rule of Law Initiative

ABA ROLI Raises Awareness of International Human Rights Work

As International Human Rights Day approaches and 2016 comes to a close, we reflect in this issue of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) Update on our work to advance human rights. These efforts are as varied as the needs we encounter — ranging from direct legal services to victims and marginalized communities to impact litigation, constitutional reform, know-your-rights education campaigns and capacity building programs to hold perpetrators accountable. One critical strategy that runs through this work is our focus on investments in people as the key to advancing human rights.


We know that realization of human rights requires the right laws to be in place, as well as strong and independent legal institutions that enforce those laws fairly. But behind the efficacy of those laws and institutions are always individual lawyers, committed individuals who stand up for rights, take an unpopular case, or pen an unpopular judgment, sometimes at enormous personal or professional risk. That’s why ABA ROLI’s approach includes strategic investments in people, especially young people, young lawyers, to give them the educational opportunities, mentorship and inspiration to become tomorrow’s human rights champions. 


These are long-term investments. They do not always catch the fancy of institutional donors interested in tangible results over the course of an 18-month grant cycle. That’s why individual philanthropy and pro bono contributions of ABA ROLI supporters often make this critical work possible. For example, over the past year individual contributions to ABA ROLI:

  • Brought six young Ukrainian law students to Washington, D.C. to participate in the International Jessup Moot Court Competition, the world’s largest such competition, pitting teams from over 500 law schools in more than 80 countries against one another to learn how to use law to resolve international conflict. 

  • Made possible an exchange between the Kosovo Bar Association (KBA) and the Minnesota Bar Association, supporting efforts of the KBA to better serve young lawyers and help them gain skills and experience necessary to become effective advocates for the rule of law. After the exchange, young members of the KBA developed an activity plan for a new Young Lawyers Section within the KBA, and obtained approval from the KBA's board to begin formally establishing the section.

  • Sent 30 young Congolese women to law school in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where women have limited opportunities for higher education and make up only 13 percent of the legal profession. One of the scholars, Rita Salama Rubayi (pictured above), attended the ABA Annual Meeting in August and told supporters that until she heard about the ABA scholarship, she had no hope of pursuing her dream of a post-secondary education. She plans to use her education to combat gender based violence and advance women’s rights in the DRC.


Over the past year, individual charitable contributions to ABA ROLI touched scores of other lawyer colleagues around the world. Additionally, ABA ROLI pro bono volunteers contributed thousands of hours and invaluable expertise to our programs. By enabling us to invest in the people behind the change, this financial and in-kind support makes all the difference in our efforts to promote human rights and the rule of law.

In this season of reflection and thanksgiving, we at ABA ROLI thank our supporters for these contributions, and we ask all in our community to consider joining the effort. Even modest contributions go a long way. It costs just $7,000 to send a young woman to law school for four years in the DRC. So, as you consider your year-end philanthropy, help us invest in people and the promise they hold for a rule of law future. Click here to learn more about giving to ROLI and to make a contribution

To learn more about our work with human rights, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].

Director, ABA Rule of Law Initiative