Upon the completion of his second five-year term as Director General, co-founder Bill Loris is stepping down after 27 years with IDLO. Loris will become Program Director of a new Masters (LLM) program in rule of law for development at the Rome Center of Loyola University Chicago.
"While I am sad leaving an organization that I and many others worked so hard to establish, I am pleased that IDLO is in good health and delivering on our hopes from 27 years ago," said Loris. "People in the developing world are securing greater social and economic justice, but there is still so much that remains to be done, and I am confident that IDLO will be a leader in advancing this effort."
Loris has seen the field of rule of law assistance explode in the past 15 years. Countries now understand the critical role it plays in their development efforts, and the number of organizations providing assistance has grown exponentially. This presented both an opportunity and a challenge for IDLO.
"When we founded IDLO, development assistance activities focused on issues such as infrastructure, health and food, but the efforts lacked the participation of a broad spectrum of people within the countries. As a result, they did not engender sustained development," explained Loris. "Our initial premise, which was to train lawyers in developing countries to structure and negotiate successful trade agreements, was quite narrow. Once we saw the transformation of the former Soviet Union countries into market democracies, and similar occurrences in Singapore and South Korea, we and many others realized that completely new legal frameworks had to be developed to ensure success. This sparked a revolution in the field of rule of law assistance."
In the '90s, a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were spawned, joining bar associations, academia and local groups in promoting locally-developed solutions. IDLO was forced to rethink its strategy, and found that special conditions for rule of law existed in areas of conflict.
"Being an intergovernmental organization that was trusted by diverse groups gave us a unique ability to gain access to the right people and institutions in these difficult and sensitive situations," said Loris. "We carried this lesson into the developing world, and found a niche that IDLO continues to serve today."
Under Loris' leadership, IDLO developed a comprehensive strategy that addresses the many factors that play a part in effecting lasting change. IDLO has grown in size and capabilities, and is now one of the leading specialists in the rule of law and development field.
"At the beginning, there were only a few of us, but with the tireless efforts of our longstanding chairman Dr. Ibrahim Shihata of the OPEC Fund, we were able to attract a number of talented and dedicated people to join us in our cause," said Loris. "With the support of our member parties, donors, partners and luminaries such as Pres. Mary Robinson, Justice Albie Sachs, William Gates, Sr., Pres. Abdou Diouf, Abdel-Latif Al-Hamad, and Amb. Thomas Pickering, we have been able to grow in stature and influence internationally. I am thrilled to see what we have accomplished, and feel very fortunate to have worked with so many wonderful people."
Loris will continue on his mission to use his legal experience to help those in the developing world who are most vulnerable. He is setting up an NGO called Give It Back to provide legal assistance to those wronged by corruption. He is also directing a new post-graduate course of studies for legal professionals interested in pursuing a career in rule of law and development, which will begin in January of 2011.
"I feel that I have come full circle in my career, because at least half of those in our new program at Loyola University will be from developing countries, and we will again be training people to meet the new challenges facing the developing world," said Loris. "However, things have changed, and I am encouraged by the enthusiasm of so many young lawyers around the world who now want to make this their life's work. I believe that together, we are going to make significant progress in our battle to give everyone an equal chance to succeed."