Rule of Law Project, Virginia Bar Association

“The rule of law is better than that of any individual.”–Aristotle

 

The Rule of Law – “The principle that everyone – from the individual right up to the State itself – is accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, is a fundamental concept which drives much of the United Nations work.”

The Virginia Bar Association’s  Rule of Law Project began collaborating with Legacy International  in 2010 to help internationalize the rule of law as an important and timely concept worldwide.

“Sponsored by The Virginia Bar Association, with financial support from the Virginia Law Foundation, the VBA Rule of Law Project provides a one-day educational program designed to enhance the teaching of the rule of law in public and private schools in Virginia.  Taught by volunteer lawyers and judges, working with middle school civics teachers, students learn about the origin, meaning and applicability of the rule of law as the basis for all of the freedoms they enjoy as American citizens.”

“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” – John Adams

Tim Isaacs, director of curriculum development at Roanoke City Public Schools says. “[Rule of Law] is about being a good citizen. We depend on the law to survive, and that means every citizen has to appreciate the history of those laws — why they exist — and understand that the law is changing. We are one of the few countries where laws and leaders are changed without force, and I think people take that for granted.”

The VBA Rule of Law Project’s website  includes The World Justice Project‘s list of “The Four Universal Principles of the Rule of Law”
  1. The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law.
  2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
  3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient.
  4. Access to justice is provided by competent, independent, and ethical adjudicators, attorneys or representatives and judicial officers who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

“Ours is a government of liberty by, through and under the law. No man is above it, and no man is below it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Legacy International has collaborated with the Virginia Rule of Law Project to strengthen understanding of the rule of law in several countries.

  • INDONESIA: As part of Legacy’s Indonesian Youth Leadership program, 23 Indonesian students and teachers from three regions (Sulawesi Island, West Java, and Riau Islands) came to the US to learn about community structures and citizen participation. Their program was designed to include participation in Legacy’s Global Youth Village,  site visits in Washington, DC, and living among Virginia host families. The VBA Rule of Law Project staff met with the students and teachers to discuss the importance of the rule of law in democratic societies, and how the rule of law functions in the United States. A lively discussion with the visiting students and teachers followed the presentation. The VBA Rule of Law Project Education Coordinator met a week later with the Indonesian teachers to discuss their specific issues regarding civics education in their schools.

GULF STATES OF OMAN AND KUWAIT: Legacy’s Legislative Fellows Project, a four week fellowship in US Congressional offices, provided US congressional staffers and social innovators from the Arabian Gulf a venue to increase mutual understanding of the legislative and policy-making processes in each country. The VBA Rule of Law staff discussed the rule of law as it functions in the United States and then engaged the Omani and Kuwaiti visitors in a discussion of topics relevant to their homelands that included establishing tolerance among diverse groups, government transparency, constitutional reform, human rights and liberty, women’s rights, and the need to meet basic human requirements of food, safe water, and health. Participants also examined the different perspectives on the rule of law in the Gulf and the US and how these perspectives affect relations between the regions. All agreed on the need to overcome stereotypes and misperceptions to work toward a better understanding of the mutual goals we all share.

•  THE KYRGYZ REPUBLIC: As part of the Kyrgyz Women’s Leadership and Capacity Building Project eleven women leaders of non-profit organizations met with Rule of Law staff to discuss the importance of the rule of law as it relates to regional stability, governmental accountability, and capacity building of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Central Asia. Some of the specific topics discussed included issues concerning women’s roles in NGOs and business, the role of volunteerism in a democratic society, ways of developing democratic values in young people, and the process for strengthening civil society and promoting democratic principles. Perhaps the most poignant moment of the day occurred when one participant observed that while all of the issues discussed were, in deed, important, the most important issue is to provide for “basic human needs of food, water, shelter, and health care.” Everyone agreed that the participant’s observation represents an immediate international issue that, ignored, belies the goals of equality and fairness at the core of a democratic society.