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April 07, 2016

ABA ROLI Retreat 2016: Learning and Leadership for the Field

Director, ABA Rule of Law Initiative

Some weeks are bigger than others.  Last week, by any measure, was a big one for ABA ROLI, marked by our annual leadership retreat, the launch of a new five-year strategic plan and a special celebration at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Our new strategic plan has “Learning and Leadership” at its core, committing us to take steps to ensure that we continue to deliver the very best in rule of law development programming.  These will include critical investments in research, monitoring and evaluation and program design capacity and the development of new internal practice groups for sharing program expertise in twelve substantive areas and across our organization. That’s the “Learning” part.  As the largest membership organization of legal professionals worldwide and with twenty-five years’ experience in rule of law development, we are also committed to leading a global conversation about the rule of law, how it shapes successful societies and the best strategies for advancing it.

All of this was in evidence during our annual retreat week, convened around a theme of “Learning and Leadership for the Field.”  The retreat brought together our Board, headquarters staff and field-based country directors for an intense week of stocktaking, training, internal capacity building and planning for the future.  We launched our new practice groups and began identifying their priorities and work plans; trained staff on new monitoring and evaluation methodologies and tools; and shared lessons learned about building public-private partnerships, successful use of on-line learning platforms, combatting corruption using the UN Convention against Corruption framework and advancing the rule of law through environmental justice. 

We also partnered with American University Washington College of Law in an important convening of practitioners and academics working at the intersection of transitional justice and rule of law development.  The conference, which featured ABA ROLI country directors leading such efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali, highlighted significant progress over twenty years of transitional justice efforts, yet continuing obstacles to ensuring their lasting impact on the rule of law.

The capstone of the week was a very special reception at the Supreme Court, honoring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with ABA ROLI’s 2016 Rule of Law Award.  The reception featured remarks by USAID Administrator Gayle Smith, who hailed USAID’s collaborations with ABA ROLI and validated our new “learning” agenda, calling for more evidence-based rule of law development and programming that emphasizes “how it works” and “what we know we want to share” rather than “how it should be.”  Accepting the award, Justice Ginsburg expressed her appreciation for the work of ABA ROLI, in particular its work to advance women’s rights around the world.  We were honored by the attendance of not only Justice Ginsburg and Administrator Smith but also Justice Sonia Sotomayor and other leading members of the judiciary and bar.  And the event was a special treat for members of ABA ROLI-sponsored law students from Ukraine, Russia and the West Bank, in Washington DC for the international Jessup Moot Court competition.

Reflecting on last week’s events, I am equal parts proud of the work we have done and excited for the future our new plans promise.  We are blessed with a rich network of staff, alumni, volunteers and supporters.  Thank you for your continued interest in our work, and stay tuned for great things to come!

Director, ABA Rule of Law Initiative