Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

World Justice Conference Focuses on Rule of Law

By Merdijana Sadovic in Prague (TU No 511, 20-July-07)
Dozens of experts from various fields gathered in Prague last week to attend an international conference aimed at strengthening and advancing the rule of law around the world.

The main goal of the conference, which took place on July 13, was to promote the ideas behind the World Justice Project, initiated by the American Bar Association, ABA, International Bar Association, IBA, Inter-Pacific Bar association and Union Internationale Des Avocats.

The initiators of this project believe that the rule of law “is the foundation for sustainable communities of opportunity and equity”.

They say it matters in our daily lives and should apply to all disciplines, including business, education, engineering, environmet, human rights, the military, health, media and religion.

Representatives from all these fields were invited to this conference to exchange ideas on how to advance the rule of law in their field of work and to begin a sustainable dialogue about its implementation.

Another important goal was to develop a rule of law index, which would be as universal as possible, applicable around the world, in all areas of life.

As the organisers of this event explained, the rule of law refers to a system of self-government with a strong and accessible legal process. It features a system based on fair, publicised, broadly understood and stable laws; and diverse, competent, independent and ethical lawyers and judges.

IWPR, together with Radio Free Europe and Jordan Times, participated in a media discussion group, which focused on various challenges journalists in post-communist and post-conflict countries are facing today.

Participants concluded that when it comes to media, the rule of law could vastly improve the situation in these countries. At the moment, journalists’ rights are not protected in many of these areas, and they often face persecution if they speak openly about some sensitive issues, or criticise their governments or policy-makers.

On the other hand, more should be done to protect the interest of the public, because many post-conflict countries, including former Yugoslavia, need more efficient laws that would protect not just the journalists, but also the people they write about.

The participants of this discussion came to a conclusion that unbiased and balanced journalism can exist only if media organisations are completely independent, which, unfortunately, is rarely the case, even in a developed world.

The World Justice Forum, which is expected to take place in July 2008 in Vienna, will develop the main ideas presented at last week’s conference in Prague and will look into the ways the rule of law can be further advanced throughout the world.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s Hague project manager.

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