July 31, 2015

Director’s Message: Convening the ABA Rule of Law Initiative Alumni


By Elizabeth Andersen
Director, ABA Rule of Law Initiative

July 2015


ABA Rule of Law Initiative Alumni gathered in Prague for a 25th Anniversary reunion.


We were delighted late last month to join with the Central and Eastern European Law Initiative (CEELI) Institute in Prague to host a 25th Anniversary reunion for ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) alumni. An opportunity for the alumni to reconnect, the event also allowed participants to review and assess the impact of the work that ABA CEELI and its successor organizations—ABA ROLI and the CEELI Institute—have done over the years. You can access the event agenda here and event photos here. Although informal gatherings of ABA ROLI alumni occur all the time throughout the world, this was the first formal reunion and a promising start of what can become a powerful global community of rule of law development practitioners.

The event featured retrospective panels with ABA CEELI founders Homer Moyer, Sandy D’Alemberte and Mark Ellis, and early pro bono liaisons Cynthia Alkon, Chris Lehmann, Mary Noel Pepys and Scott Carlson, and a fair bit of nostalgia and trading of old anecdotes. But there were also important prospective exchanges about strategies for addressing critical contemporary challenges, such as endemic corruption and closing space for civil society in repressive states. We often joke about the reach of the “ABA ROLI mafia,” how the rule of law development field is filled with many who have worked with ABA ROLI at some point in their career. That was certainly in evidence at this gathering, with more than 30 alumni in attendance drawn from current posts with a range of multilateral and regional organizations, donor agencies and implementing organizations.

This relatively modest first alumni gathering was illustrative of our capacity to be a convener of this community for the sharing of lessons learned, networking and strengthening rule of law development assistance, and it has whetted my appetite for more. ABA ROLI is different from other rule of law development organizations. Its history, which dates to the early days of the post-Cold War wave of rule of law development, its longstanding presence in many countries of operation and relationships with former local staff and partners, and its ties to the American Bar Association, a constituency-oriented organization, give it a broad network of alumni and capacity to convene them that is unparalleled in the field. Moreover, I would argue that ABA ROLI, as a mission-driven organization, has an obligation to play this convening role, to advance the rule of law by strengthening the field as well as by pursuing excellence in our own programming.

Strengthening our alumni network will be a priority for us over the coming year. The work begins with reconnecting to our alumni. If you count yourself among that corps, we encourage you to complete this form to update your contact and employment information. Send me word of alumni, especially former local staff, with whom you think we may have lost touch and help us reconnect. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and tag or tweet at us to share your news with colleagues through those platforms. If you would like to be involved in developing an organizational structure and programming for the ABA ROLI alumni network, please be in touch with me. Thank you to those of you who came to Prague for launching us so well in what I am sure promises to be a rich and rewarding new chapter in the ABA ROLI story.