Bill Loris

The international “rule of law community” now has about 30 years of experience in helping countries establish, maintain and improve the rule of law over time.  The fact that countries are continuing to seek expertise from outside their borders as a way to move forward on their national rule of law agendas is encouraging and reason for concern at the same time.  It is encouraging as it demonstrates the importance which countries attach to this area of governance. It is worrisome that 30 years more countries are not able to pursue their rule of law agendas without outside help. 

Consider the following;

  • Core governance processes need to undertaken independently by each country in order that those processes and their outcomes are nationally owned.
  • National ownership allows assignment of responsibility for the outcomes which are judged by the people through democratic political processes.
  • Dependence on outside sources to carry out even part of a core governance process confuses the assignment of responsibility for outcomes.
  • Establishment, maintenance, adjustment and improvement of the rule of law is an ongoing core governance process in any well-governed country.
  • Current heavy reliance of many developing countries outside legal expertise to improve the state of the rule of law perpetuates dependence and confuses the assignment of responsibility for a continued rule of law deficit.

This has implications for the prospects for peace, stability and security, the realization of the human person and attainment of equality and well being for women, men and children across the globe. 

The international rule of law community should consider it as a matter of priority to break the cycle of dependence of many developing countries on outside rule of law expertise and build features into all programs which are aimed at building long term sustainable rule of law advisory capacity in the countries they serve.    In other words, the international rule of law community needs to shift its focus away from specific projects and initiatives aimed at fixing certain aspects of legal systems to building national rule of law advisory capacity.  It is not a matter of giving up on exchange and collaboration.  That would not be good.  Even countries with advanced rule of law situations need to learn what is happening in other jurisdictions which explains the intense level of international collaboration and exchange on rule of law issues which takes place between countries in the OECD. 

Loyola University Chicago School of Law Response

The School of Law of Loyola University of Chicago, with major support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and pioneering scholarship support from Microsoft, has established a new LL.M. Program on Rule of Law for Development.  (PROLAW) to demonstrate in a practical way how this shift can take place.  The main insight which fuels the program is that it is not necessarily “the law” which international rule of law advisors bring to the countries where they work.   What they really bring is experience in other countries, knowledge of precedents, an ability to access the accumulated documentation and guidance now available thanks to organizations such as the WJP, and research, organizational, strategic and mentoring skills.   While senior rule of law specialists have learned these things on the job, they can be taught and learned in a practice oriented academic setting such as PROLAW or from advisors who are truly dedicated to building national rule of law capacity and have the resources to do the kind of mentoring required.

PROLAW Objectives

In light of the foregoing, the PROLAW Program  pursues two objectives:

- to demonstrate that it can effectively assist legal professionals in the developing countries to develop the capacity to independently drive the establishment, adjustment and improvement of the rule of law on an ongoing basis; and

-to inspire and contribute to the establishment of a coalition of legal professionals, international organizations, non government organizations and national authorities in both donor countries and countries receiving rule of law assistance to work for the following outcomes:

  1. The achievement of all developing countries of permanent, independent, capacity to establish, maintain, adjust and improve the rule of law on an ongoing basis led by national legal and other professionals who can advise and manage achievement of this core government function in accordance with international best practice and experience; and
  1. The shift of international support relating to the rule of law to a twin supporting role through:
  • continued research and evaluation of ongoing and past rule of law initiatives aimed at further building knowledge about the rule of law issues and the emergence of global best practice;  and
  • an intensive effort to building of the skills and knowledge base of national actors upon which national authorities can rely and investing in permanent fora for international collaboration and exchange between rule of law peer professionals and institutions.

Loyola University Chicago School of Law runs the PROLAW program at its campus in Rome, Italy.  In the 2011-12 launch year 25 legal professionals from around world worked with a faculty of rule of law advisors to see if an academic program can really do what it set out to do.  It seems to have worked.  Every person who graduated from the program, whether from countries which are often sources of international rule of law expertise or countries currently being assisted came away with both the knowledge and skills which are key to getting the rule of law job done and clear ideas on how they can pursue the PROLAW objectives in their work.  See what the students say at

Your feedback on the ideas behind and the details of this new program would be welcome indeed. Bill Loris can be reached at [email protected].

Bill Loris PROLAW
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