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Unique 24-hour webathon spotlights rule of law challenges

May 17, 2021

Earlier this month, bar associations from around the globe became linked in a novel 24-hour webathon that promoted the rule of law, universally recognized as a society’s legal underpinning guaranteeing human rights and creating economic opportunity and development. The event was organized by the American Bar Association International Law Section and two global bar entities with contributions from other international bars.

A 24-hour webathon promoting the rule of law was sponsored by the ABA International Law Section.

A 24-hour webathon promoting the rule of law was sponsored by the ABA International Law Section.

The ABA’s portion of the webinar featured former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. A panel by the Law Society of England and Wales included a United Kingdom justice as well as a former mayor of London. And law groups from India spoke about corporate social responsibility and human rights as an essential component of good and fair business.

“The rule of law is the bedrock of American rights and liberties — in times of calm and unrest alike,” ABA President Patricia Lee Refo said. “This extraordinary presentation by so many lawyers and bar groups across the globe serves as a reminder that all of us in the global law community share the responsibility to promote the rule of law, defend liberty and pursue justice every day.”

In the ABA’s two-hour segment, which highlighted ABA rule of law efforts internationally, Refo joined Alberto Mora, associate executive director for ABA Global Programs, including the Rule of Law Initiative; Joseph L. Raia, chair, ABA International Law Section; and Michael Pates, director of the ABA Center for Human Rights.

Albright, who was the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state (1997-2001) during the second term of the Clinton administration, kicked off the program in a conversation with Refo. Although not a lawyer, Albright recalled that she has a long career of working with lawyers in various international roles and delivered a strong message: Lawyers should ignore, if not challenge, the chatter that says the rule of law is “for suckers.”

“My message to you is to ignore the cynics,” Albright said, emphasizing that democracy, not autocracy, remains the best governmental system in the world. “The rule of law is not for suckers.”

She noted that her two daughters and their husbands are lawyers and gave a hint of regret for not pursuing law as a career. “Justice Albright,” she mused, “has a very nice ring to it.”

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