What is the Rule of Law?

Derived from internationally accepted standards, the World Justice Project’s definition of the rule of law is a system in which the following four universal principles are upheld:

  1. The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law.
  2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; 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. Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

These four universal principles are further developed in the following nine factors of the WJP Rule of Law Index, which measures how the rule of law is experienced by ordinary people in 99 countries around the globe.


Constraints on Government Powers

In a society governed by the rule of law, the government and its officials and agents are subject to and held accountable under the law. Modern societies have developed systems of checks and...
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Absence of Corruption

The absence of corruption - conventionally defined as the use of public power for private gain - is one of the hallmarks of a society governed by the rule of law, as corruption is a manifestation...
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Open Government

Please note: We have just launched the WJP Open Government Index 2015, please visit our report web page for the latest WJP open...
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Fundamental Rights

Under the rule of law, fundamental rights must be effectively guaranteed. A system of positive law that fails to respect core human rights established under international law is at best “rule by...
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Order and Security

Human security is one of the defining aspects of any rule of law society. Protecting human security, mainly assuring the security of persons and property, is a fundamental function of the state....
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Regulatory Enforcement

Public enforcement of government regulations is pervasive in modern societies as a method to induce conduct. A critical feature of the rule of law is that such rules are upheld and properly...
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Civil Justice

In a rule of law society, ordinary people should be able to resolve their grievances and obtain remedies in conformity with fundamental rights through formal institutions of justice in a peaceful...
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Criminal Justice

An effective criminal justice system is a key aspect of the rule of law, as it constitutes the natural mechanism to redress grievances and bring action against individuals for offenses against...
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Informal Justice

For many countries it is important to acknowledge the role played by traditional, or ‘informal’, systems of law — including traditional, tribal, and religious courts, as well as community-based...
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