“Effective institutions are key to providing justice and upholding rights,” Director-General Irene Khan told members of IDLO, representatives of world governments and international organizations gathered in Rome for IDLO’s annual Assembly of Parties. Held on November 6 in the historic setting of the Campidoglio (Rome’s City Hall), the event – a reunion of IDLO’s highest decision-making body – was the largest of its kind yet. “Institutions,” Ms. Khan added, “function better when citizens are empowered. Together, they provide an essential framework for equitable and sustainable development. The aim of IDLO is to make laws and institutions meaningful in people’s lives.”
Introducing the Management Plan for 2015, the Director-General outlined steps to stabilize the Organization’s growth, whose portfolio has expanded by a factor of three in as many years. New programming is in place (or in the pipeline) in countries as far apart as Indonesia and Mali – the latter signaling IDLO’s renewed engagement with francophone Africa. Steady progress, Ms. Khan stressed, was also being made to enhance IDLO’s global presence and policy impact: a new branch office in The Hague is gearing up to full speed – while in New York and Geneva, IDLO’s UN offices promote the role of human rights and the rule of law in achieving a transformative post-2015 development agenda.
The Assembly unanimously endorsed the Management Plan, noting in its resolution “the good progress being made by the Organization in achieving the substantive as well as the organizational goals…” set out in 2012’s four-year Strategic Plan. The document calls on Member States to “bring their best efforts to bear in responding to, and supporting, the Director-General’s endeavors to continue to strengthen IDLO.”
“It is hard to think of anything in the news that doesn’t have relevance to what IDLO does,” said David Lane, United States Ambassador to the UN Agencies in Rome. The remark came in his opening speech to the event, marking the end of the U.S.presidency of the Assembly. In subsequent elections to IDLO’s governing bodies, Kuwait took the helm as Assembly President (the first nation from the global South to fill the role), while the US was elected Vice-President. Mozambique joined the Netherlands on the Assembly’s Standing Committee, while China, France, Kenya, the Netherlands and Romania were voted onto the Audit and Finance Committee.
Alongside the United States, Italy, as IDLO’s host nation, remained its Vice-President ex officio. Speaking for the Italian Government, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Benedetto della Vedova described IDLO’s work as “crucial in building confidence” for the advancement of the rule of law. Senator della Vedova went on to highlight the extent to which IDLO’s areas of research and programming dovetail with Italy’s own priorities – chief among them, freedom of religion and the elimination of gender violence.
The latter point was emphasized by keynote speaker Neila Chaabane, Tunisian Secretary of State for Women and the Family, who focused on the intersection between the rule of law, women’s rights and development. Tunisia’s new Constitution and recent elections marked a “definitive break” with the past, she said, while enshrining full rights for women – a pioneering move for the region. This had helped prevail over the “retrograde voices” that had sought to roll back more than half a century of female emancipation.
Speaking for Kenya, Peter Oganga Mangiti, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, also emphasized his government’s commitment to gender equality. The concept, enshrined in Kenya’s IDLO-supported new Constitution, should be mainstreamed (that is, integrated into all aspects of policy-making), and also “made effective throughout the country”. Women’s empowerment had progressed, Mr. Oganga Mangiti explained, but serious challenges remained, including the continuing practice of female genital mutilation and high maternal mortality rates.
In his statement, the representative of the People’s Republic of China thanked IDLO for growing bilateral cooperation, particularly in the area of commerce law. The country’s ruling party, he told the audience, had “accepted the idea of rule of law officially” at the latest plenary session of its Central Committee.
A panel discussion moderated by Giampaolo Cantini, Director General for Development Corporation at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, saw former UN Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell and Oscar Urviola Hani, President of the Constitutional Court of Peru, explore more broadly the contribution of the rule of law to justice, peace building and development. “The rule of law is not only for lawyers,” Mr Corell said. “It is for everyone.” He added that conflict was “always linked to a lack of democracy”.
The rule of law, Justice Urviola Hani said, was to society “what asepsis is to the operating theatre”: the essential condition for vital procedures and reactions to occur. He went on to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the Constitutional Court of Peru and IDLO, providing for institutional strengthening and judicial capacity building in the country. For his part, co-panelist and senior World Bank official Hassane Cisse spoke of the need for an “adequate legal climate in which enterprises thrive” and of building inclusive institutions as a “necessary ingredient for inclusive growth”.
The Assembly also witnessed Yemen being approved to join IDLO as a Member Party and heard Pakistan say it planned to follow suit in the months ahead. Finally, Sweden announced that it would shortly enter a multi-year funding agreement with IDLO, following a positive assessment of the Organization’s finances and business processes.