International Judicial Monitor
Published by the American Society of International Law and the International Judicial Academy
Jul/Aug 2007, Volume 2, Issue 2

Global Judicial Dialogue


The International Rule of Law Starts at Home

The following Global Judicial Dialogue is from an address given by Ambassador (and Judge) Hans Corell of Sweden to the Faculty of Law of the University of Lund in Sweden on May 31 of this year. Ambassador Corell's biography is highlighted in the "Leading Figures in International Law' section of this edition of the International Judicial Monitor.

The scrupulous adherence to the rule of law both at the national and international level is the only way forward to ensure peace and security for future generations.

It is easy to agree with the UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change when it argues that “capable and responsible States must be on the front line in combating today’s threats.”[1]  To focus on UN reform only will therefore not be sufficient. As I have commented on other occasions, the constant talk of UN reform is more often than not attempts to draw attention from the shortcomings of the Members of the Organisation!

No, we must start at the national level by making a systemic and organized effort in which all countries should be involved. This will not succeed unless it has the wholehearted support of the most powerful Members of the United Nations.

As I have said on many occasions before, it was with great sadness that I observed how these Members sometimes behaved.  This goes in particular for the United States, a democracy and a State under the rule of law.  But I believe that there is now a growing understanding among the general public in that country that its administration must rediscover the ideals upon which the United Nations was founded.

Among the positive signs is that the U.S. civil society is presently more actively engaged than ever in efforts directed towards strengthening the rule of law both within their own country and elsewhere.  Suffice it to mention the efforts by the American Society of International Law ( and the American Bar Association (ABA)

Also the United Nations and other international organizations, such as the World Bank, the European Union, and the Council of Europe, provide assistance to help establishing societies under the rule of law.  The same goes for many governments.  That governments should engage actively in this work cannot be stressed enough.  In the public debate I have expressed the opinion that for strategic reasons donor countries should give priority to the rule of law and legal technical assistance in their international aid activity.

But let me now turn to the non-governmental organizations engaged in this work.  Let me illustrate with the following examples.

The International Bar Association (IBA) has adopted a resolution to strengthen the rule of law and is supporting a Rule of Law Movement.  In that context it has also established an International Rule of Law Directory, which is the first centralized, fully searchable, online database of entities engaged in rule of law work throughout the world. It is established to provide users with reliable information and a compiled directory of Internet resources and links to organizations offering assistance to the rule of law.  The IBA Human Rights Institute is engaged in extensive legal assistance work in many countries.  At its Annual Meeting this autumn, IBA will devote a full day to the rule of law.

The ABA has launched a Rule of Law Initiative, which is a formal consolidation in March this year of ABA’s international rule of law programs into a single entity.  This entity is comprised of the Africa Law Initiative, the Asia Law Initiative, the Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (CEELI), and the Latin American and Caribbean Law Initiative and has some 400 staff and volunteers in over 40 countries, including the U.S.  The whole idea of this initiative is to strengthen the rule of law.

In September 2006, the IBA and the ABA jointly organized a Rule of Law Symposium to strengthen their cooperation.

The ABA is presently consulting with others with a view to developing a Rule of Law Index to be able to measure the adherence to the rule of law at the national level around the world. 

The International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC), established in 2002, is an umbrella organization for non-governmental organizations and other organizations interested in promoting the rule of law.  The Consortium has some 40 member organizations (among them IBA and ABA), representing over 3 million judges, prosecutors, lawyers and academics world wide, and is engaged in a number of countries focusing on challenges that justice systems face in the aftermath of armed conflict.  Its working methods contains several elements, among them initial assessment of the justice system in a post conflict situation, working with the host government, making recommendations on what is needed to rebuild that justice system, assessing what resources are available in the country and highlighting the assistance that is needed from the international community, and helping the host government and the United Nations to coordinate the implementation of ILAC’s recommendations.

The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL) is an international research institute focusing on national legal orders and how they function (or not) in a world where national borders in the traditional sense are becoming less important.  The institute has organized seminars, bringing together experts from different organizations, which has led to the establishment of a Network of High Level Experts on the Rule of Law.

The Raol Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Lund University has a goal to advance knowledge and understanding of international human rights law and to promote respect for and fulfillment of human rights through research, education, and overall capacity building.  This is done through an extensive program including through local offices in Beijing, Jakarta, Nairobi and Istanbul.

The Atlantic Council of the United States works to promote constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in meeting the international challenges of the 21st Century.  On 1 November 2005, the Council’s Program on Transatlantic Relations organized a workshop on “International Law in an Age of Globalization and Terrorism,” which brought together 26 European and U.S. experts on international law.  The result of the workshop was published in an Atlantic Council policy paper in March 2007, authored by William H. Taft, former Legal Adviser to the Department of State, and Frances G. Burwell, Director of the Council.  This policy paper contains a number of very constructive recommendations, among them that the United States and the European Union should demonstrate their commitment to the future of international law by launching a program of extensive legal assistance that will bolster the rule of law around the world.

In this context, it should also be mentioned a very interesting initiative by an intergovernmental organization.  As an outflow of discussions within the Network of High Level Experts on the Rule of Law (see HiiL above), the International Law Development Organization (IDLO) is in the process of establishing the IDLO Rule of Law Assistance Directory.  The purpose of this Directory, which will soon be available on the Internet, is to serve not only as a database but also as a tool to facilitate the exchange of information, generate debate and discussion, and promote harmonization of development strategies for the legal and judicial sectors.  So far, several thousand technical assistance projects from 2004 onwards have been registered.

It is also interesting to note the initiatives that are now increasingly being taken by business. Many enterprises have joined the Global Compact  launched by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in January 1999.  Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a major issue in the decision-making at the highest level, in particular in transnational corporations.  CSR now constitutes an important element in their risk management.

But needless to say, the United Nations and other international organizations must strengthen their efforts to provide legal technical assistance in order to help establishing societies under the rule of law. The same applies to the governments that are in a position to contribute in this field.  The rule of law at the national level is a precondition for a well functioning system at the international level.

[1] Report of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change, (2004), A More Secure World: our shared responsibility,

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2007 – The American Society of International Law and International Judicial Academy.

Editors: James G. Apple, Veronica Onorevole and Andrew Solomon.
IJM welcomes comments, suggestions, and submissions.
PPlease contact the IJM editors at