Twenty years ago, with the support of prominent U.S. jurists and lawyers, visionary members of the American Bar Association created a program that would later become the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI). This year, we will commemorate this milestone with a special website featuring program highlights, success stories and first-hand accounts by our overseas volunteers and staff—all gathered over the past two decades.
ABA ROLI’s origins lie in the 1990 creation of the ABA Central and EasternEuropean Law Initiative (ABA CEELI), which assisted with constitution drafting and legislative assessments for seven countries in Eastern Europe and theformer Soviet Union. Inspired by ABA CEELI’s successes in the region, the ABAexpanded its overseas legal technical assistance to Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa.
Over the years, ABA ROLI programs have played a role in a number of firsts—the first national public defender system in Armenia, the first independent, self-regulating bar association in Georgia and the first court-annexed mediation programs in Jordan and in Mexico. We worked with partners to establish the first small claims courts in the Philippines, to create the first network for female legal professionals in the Middle East and to support Liberia’s first judicial training center.
We have established important partnerships with foreign bar associations, including the All-China Lawyers Association, and assisted legal professionals, such as in Ecuador, in their transition from an inquisitorial to an adversarial justice system. And, in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, we are helping to combat the rape crisis and impunity for the perpetrators of these horrific crimes. You can read more about these accomplishments and others on the pages of our 20th anniversary website.
Today, ABA ROLI operates programs in 40 countries around the world. Our work assists the development of the legal profession, upholds human rights,modernizes law schools and judicial academies, and supports legal aid services that provide better access to the justice system. Through our programs, we strengthen the response to human trafficking, educate citizens about their legal rights and foster understanding of—and support for—women’s rights. We partner with host governments, legal professional associations, law schools, non-governmental organizations and other members of civil society to cultivate a stronger and more consistently applied rule of law, resulting in concrete improvements in the lives of everyday citizens.
Our 20th anniversary gala on October 14, 2010, in Washington, DC, will be the ideal occasion to reflect upon the last two decades and to look ahead to the next 20 years—so mark your calendar for this special event. We hope that all our champions and supporters can join us on that occasion.