CEELI, The Rule Of Law And The Corporate Role

Monday, May 1, 2006 - 01:00

Editor: Bill, please tell our readers about CEELI.

Ide: CEELI (an adjunct of the ABA) was started after the fall of the Berlin wall in order to undertake a counterpart of the Marshall Plan for the justice systems in the former Soviet Bloc countries. We're proud that so many of the countries in Eastern Europe have established justice systems that have allowed them to install democratic societies, earning them the right to join the EU. The Communist regimes in Hungary, the former Czechoslovakia and the Baltic countries were very repressive. The speed with which those countries have progressed from installing to utilizing credible justice systems is stunning.

Today CEELI operates with a budget of nearly thirty million dollars with over 200 staff members in 24 countries. The Balkans are still a challenge, but CEELI and others have made substantial progress there. CEELI gathered vital data for the Milosevic war crimes trial. (We've done the same for war trials in Sierra Leone.) Two years ago, CEELI helped assure fair elections in the Republic of Georgia, which resulted in Saakashvili's election as president. A year later, as part of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, CEELI-trained Supreme Court justices ruled that the presidential election results were fraudulent and this led to democratic elections. CEELI has worked in Russia to help set up jury trials.

CEELI is presently a part of rule of law reforms in the Iraq and parts of the Middle East. The CEELI Institute in Prague has been training Iraqi judges and lawyers because it's very hard for them to train in their own country. CEELI has also been active in Jordan, Morocco and Bahrain.

The ABA is in the process of unifying all its efforts so that CEELI as well as the separate ABA programs in Africa, Latin America and the rest of Asia will all become one. This will permit the combined organization to use its resources more effectively.

Editor: On November 9-10, the American Bar Association held an International Rule of Law Symposium on Advancing The Rule of Law To Solve Global Problems. Why did the ABA to think this was important?

Ide: The time seems right for this country first, and then others globally, to recognize the importance of the rule of law in this era of globalization. With high technology smashing across what used to be borders and turning the world into a global community, a whole new series of opportunities and challenges has been created. This new interconnected world allows goods to move without barriers, but so can evil through terrorism and crime.

Those of us who worked to put together the Symposium are convinced that the rule of law is the foundation for global peace and betterment. So CEELI and the ABA felt it was time to bring together governments, corporations, foundations and NGOs to start a dialogue that we hoped would put the rule of law much higher on the foreign policy agenda.

Editor: What were the key conclusions of the meeting?

Ide: The major conclusion was that the rule of law is the base building block to deal with societal issues on a global basis. It enables areas of global concern like terrorism, corruption, poverty and disease to be effectively addressed.

People presented papers on conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and especially the opportunity for multinational companies to develop markets (which then raise the standard of living for everyone). Those who attended came away with the firm conviction that the rule of law could enable countries to meet each of these key challenges and that the ABA through its Rule of Law programs was the ideal vehicle for coordinating that effort.

Editor: What are the essential components of the rule of law?

Ide: In the article on page 38 of this issue, some of the present and former general counsel at the Symposium discussed the definition. Personally, I believe the rule of law arises when a group of people commit to a social compact (usually in the form of a constitution) that includes certain universal principles. One is that each person is entitled to equal treatment and fairness and that no man or woman is above the law. Two is that a set of rules established under the compact will govern relationships among individuals and entities. Three is that there will be an independent judiciary to resolve conflicts pursuant to the universal principles of the compact.

Editor: Can you tell our readers how the "four horsemen of disaster" - terrorism, corruption, poverty, and disease - relate to the rule of law? First tell us how absence of the rule of law can set the stage for terrorism and corruption.

Ide: Terrorism and corruption thrive where there is an absence of law. A failed state can easily become a breeding ground for terrorism and corruption because there is nobody to investigate or prosecute those who violate the law. Without an impartial judicial branch with the power to effectively enforce its decisions, a terrorist or gangster group can seize control and set up its own government.

We can get very complacent in the Westernized countries and think that these four horsemen are other people's problems, not ours - but that's simply not true. If they are unleashed anywhere, they wreak their toll everywhere. Therefore, we need to use our resources, including technology, to promote the rule of law worldwide. Our government is doing its part through help provided by USAID and the State Department and, as described in the article on page 38, multinationals promote the rule of law as well by supporting its principles through engagement and by example.

Editor: How can the rule of law address poverty?

Ide: Poverty can be combated by economic development, which will occur if investors are willing to commit their monies to impoverished areas. Where people have jobs, poverty melts away. With today's technology, any pool of labor in the world could be used by an investor - if he or she has the assurance that there is rule of law where that pool is. But, investors will not come in unless contracts are enforceable. See the article on page 38.

There's no sense in building a dam in a corrupt country and seeing half the money go to a dictator's bank account in Zurich. Presence of the rule of law should be the predicate to any capital grants given to depressed areas. If present, the money will help eliminate poverty. If not, the money will be used to sustain a small ruling class that perpetuates poverty for the rest of the population.

Capital is going to go where it's comfortable, where it will be treated fairly and where investors will get a fair return or at least get their money back. It won't go where there's weak rule of law. We've seen that time after time. During the financial crisis in the 1990s, parts of Asia did very poorly because the money left very quickly in the face of lack of transparency, lack of an independent judiciary, and lack of enforceable contracts.

Editor: What about disease?

Ide: There are two major problems. One is the theft of drugs being sent to help people in poor countries in which the rule of law has been abrogated by corrupt war lords or dictators who in turn sell the drugs, and the people never see them. That's a huge problem.

The other problem is with the health pandemics: if disease breaks out, and there aren't systems and laws and alerts that connect the world, the disease will travel quickly - travelers, birds, carry it everywhere. It was three months before China let people know about the SARS outbreak.

We are all one community now, in many ways. A health problem, a smuggling problem, a terrorism problem can start in one place, but it will be with all of us quickly, so we have address such problems where they first appear.

Editor: Does the rule of law encompass democracy? Singapore, for example, is not a notable democracy, but it ranks above the U.S. when rated by organizations like Transparency International.

Ide: Some argue that if there is an ordered society which allows for business investment, that is rule of law which allows for economic growth. For instance, you might have a terrible system from a human rights standpoint, but one might argue that there could still be a viable climate for investment. That is incorrect, an ordered society without human rights is a tyranny and it will not last. Many American companies and other multinationals have included respect for human rights in their definition of the rule of law. See the article on page 38. They feel that they cannot continue to operate in countries where the human rights of their employees or those of their suppliers are seriously infringed.

Editor: What about the role of business enterprises in the rule of law?

Ide: In many ways, the strongest advocates for America's international reputation viewed from a foreign policy standpoint have over the years been those multinational companies that have created jobs and prosperity and protected the human rights of their employees worldwide. We would like to see governments, multinational companies and NGOs like CEELI work more closely together. This is particularly valuable when the motives of the multinationals acting alone might be suspect.

The more enlightened multinationals recognize that if you nurture the ground you farm, it's a win-win for everyone, so they invest in schools and help communities. ABA-Rule of Law has the capacity to build independent judiciaries, law schools and bar associations in developing countries. Thus, we can help provide multinationals with a vehicle to strengthen the rule of law in the countries in which they do business - which may well be the single most important factor in the ability of global companies to protect their investment in developing countries and the potential for continuing profitability.

Corporations can help advance the work of ABA-Rule of Law by providing funding and those that have lawyers on site can encourage them to volunteer time for training judges and helping us build curricula. Putting laws in place, such as those applicable to anti-trust or intellectual property, is a critical first step. Those who will adjudicate disputes and enforce rights under those laws need to be trained. That's the partnership we're moving toward.

In the panel presentation described in the article on page 38, Tom Gottschalk at GM described the importance of enlisting organizations like ABA-Rule of Law in efforts to promote the rule of law. At the Symposium, general counsel from other major companies made the same point on other panels. The common mission is to educate legislators and judges in developing countries that to attract investment and to encourage business there must be a legal system that is honored and available.

Editor: To what extent does CEELI act as a channel for the energies of multinational companies that are looking for models to follow and local organizations to promote that will help build the rule of law in developing countries?

Ide: One of the main goals of the Symposium was to take cooperation between corporations and others to a more formalized level. The ABA has interacted with multinational companies over the years. Yet, it has not done so on a very consistent and organized basis. Although corporations have helped with funding and curriculum building for the CEELI Institute (the ABA's training center in Prague for judges and bar association leaders), we need to involve multinationals to a greater extent.

The Asian Program of Temple University Beasley School of Law offers a 15-month LLM program in Beijing (with the main course being intellectual property) as well as shorter courses. These programs are attended by Chinese lawyers (including legislative officials, judges, regulators and prosecutors). See page 43 of the December 2005 issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. Other U.S. law schools have a variety of outreach efforts. Multinational corporations and their law firms also engage in activities that support the rule of law.

To be most effective, it is desirable to have a central source of information about these efforts so that cross-fertilization and cooperation can take place. This is where ABA-Rule of Law can be helpful - and the Symposium was an important step in this direction. A Web cast of the Symposium is available at www.pqhp.com/aba-ceeli-05.