In recent years, there has been a growing global recognition that stronger economic growth and increased foreign investment as a means towards sustained poverty reduction must take into consideration a variety of social and environmental factors that affect whether national wealth and opportunities are distributed in an equitable, balanced manner. Multi-dimensional challenges such as poor public health, climate change, environmental degradation and socially irresponsible business practices threaten to interfere with human development and undermine the basic human rights of entire populations. These problems often have a distinct legal aspect, and solutions require laws and legal institutions that ensure the effective and fair delivery of social services, the equitable distribution of resources and the efficient and just resolution of disputes. Yet, within the development field, rule of law is too often an after-thought in efforts to address these issues, with little attention paid to developing and integrating relevant law and governance-oriented strategies.
ABA ROLI strives to change this view by broadening the development community’s appreciation of the impact of law and justice on human development. We believe there is a fundamental connection between rule of law and human rights, on the one hand, and public health, climate change and environmentally sustainable and socially responsible business, on the other. The promotion of rule of law, especially when founded on a human rights-based approach, can significantly advance objectives in each of these fields. Laws and public institutions that can promote accountability and transparency, combat corruption and protect local populations are critical to fostering sustainable and inclusive development. A stable legal system, with courts and judges capable of interpreting and enforcing the law in an informed, open and predictable manner, is also crucial to achieving confidence of both domestic and foreign investors. A holistic, cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach that encompasses the legal and regulatory environment is, therefore, key to any effective response strategy.
In line with this philosophy, ABA ROLI engages with local communities, civil society organizations, businesses and governments to develop rule of law and human rights-based solutions to multi-faceted development problems. As part of our Inclusive and Sustainable Development program area, we work to:
- improve environmental governance and mitigate environmental costs associated with economic development, through increased transparency of environmental information and cutting-edge public interest litigation;
- integrate legal strategies into efforts to address public health concerns, such as HIV-related discrimination and the health effects of environmental pollution;
- improve land and natural resource governance and work to reduce high social, environmental and economic costs often associated with large-scale extractive exploitation, by enabling mining communities to become informed and active stakeholders and ensuring tenure security and access to land;
- promote appreciation for human rights, rule of law and development challenges among local businesses, encouraging them to design corporate social responsibility programs and anti-bribery compliance strategies in accordance with international standards; and
- reform commercial laws and practices to promote the use of alternative dispute resolutions, strengthen enforcement of commercial contracts, improve protection of intellectual property rights and create equal economic opportunities for small businesses, women and other disadvantaged groups.
ABA ROLI’s programming relating to these complex human development challenges is premised on a set of core human rights principles, which include active and meaningful participation of affected communities in policies and programs; substantive gender equality; non-discrimination and attention to vulnerable groups; and accountability. We believe these principles set an important framework for orientation of programs concerned with inclusive and sustainable development, and therefore integrate them into design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of our programs. Entry points for our programs in these areas are familiar to rule of law practitioners and include approaches such as:
- developing national strategies through an inclusive and participatory process;
- legislative and regulatory reform;
- enhancing access to justice and legal empowerment through civil society capacity building, civic education and legal literacy programs, and mobilizing the legal profession to advance relevant rights;
- developing administrative, judicial and quasi-judicial claims and accountability mechanisms;
- training judges, lawyers and government officials on relevant subjects; and
- anti-corruption programming, especially in the area of public access to information.