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By Ian McDougall
Before I start on my subject of today, it might be helpful for historians to locate the time within which this blog is being written. We have just had one of the most controversial presidential elections in history; Donald Trump vs Joe Biden. It is already clear that the number of votes cast (in excess of 66% of eligible voters) will be a record for the US, beating the previous record set in 1960 (of 63.8%).
You may recall if you saw my last blog that I encouraged voting for several reasons including the fact that low voting numbers allow strange results, much like low-volume share trading permits wild swings. It’s the law of small numbers. Of course, I don’t believe that 150 million people read my last blog and heeded its call to vote but I can dream! Passing over such a blow to the ego, I am glad that so many people participated in the process. But the process doesn’t stop when the votes are counted. The true strength of a democracy is the acceptance of the result and the smooth transition of power. The problem that many countries around the world have stems from the simple inability to execute a smooth and peaceful transfer of power from one to another. I can only hope that, whatever the outcome, the loser accepts the result. That is the best thing for everyone to do.
So, with the knowledge that “this too will pass,” as the old Persian poets were famous for saying, I thought it would be a good idea to give you an update on the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation. For those who don’t intimately recall every one of my postings (again, ignoring the blow to the ego), the Foundation was established at the beginning of 2019. But that is only the start. The bureaucracy is beyond Kafkaesque. Mountains of paper, huge number of forms, different State processes and monetary levels, the list goes on and on.
However, once all the administrative hurdles are jumped, we finally get down to the business of actually advancing the Rule of Law around the world. This is the part that everyone involved in the Foundation, its activities, its projects, its campaigning, its donors and volunteers, can all take a moment to feel proud. During the time since formation our Foundation has grown from infant to toddler and from toddler to active child. So, I thought now would be a good time to look back and mark our growth so far… before the next growth spurt!
The Foundation’s first partners were with international journalists using LexisNexis resources to help find and fight corruption and fraud around the world. We are pleased to be working with the Global Investigative Journalism Network and the Institute for Non-Profit News. We are providing resources around the world to help reporters build stories where they courageously expose injustices that undermine the Rule of Law.
In collaboration with The Law Society of England and Wales, the Foundation continued its support of the Women in Leadership International Project. The Foundation partnered with the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the Union Internationale des Avocats to develop Rule of Law and COVID-19 Webinars. These webinars have been attended by huge numbers of lawyers around the world.
LexisNexis colleagues in South Korea received a plaque of appreciation on behalf of the Foundation from the President of the Supreme Court Library of Korea for books the Foundation donated to the library following the 2019 International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference.
Foundation VP & Secretary, Nigel Roberts, chaired an online program on the use of technology in the provision of pro bono services, at the IBA Virtually Together conference. The speakers including David Greene, President of The Law Society of England & Wales; Ana Higuera, Director of Pro Bono for Fundación Fernando Pombo; and James Harper, LexisNexis UK.
LexisNexis employees across the world are volunteering their time and skills to support an IBA Gender Survey and an IBA Human Rights Institute project to create a manual on sexual and gender-based violence in the criminal justice system for lawyers and judges in Pakistan.
Volunteers are developing a human rights technology guide to support work on complex human rights issues with Oxfam.
The Foundation is supporting Diversity and inclusion starting with new agreements with the National Bar Association (NBA), the largest and oldest network of primarily Africa-American lawyers and judges in the US, and with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. As part of the new agreement with the NBA, the Foundation participated in the recent Wiley A. Branton Virtual Symposium, focusing on election protection issues and the increased focus on racial injustice/equity and the future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
We have worked with the International Law Book Facility to support book donations in Brazil and Chile.
We participated at a conference hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to explain to business the importance of the Rule of Law to stable and prosperous societies and highlighted Venezuela as a case study in what happens which the Rule of Law is absent.
At the time of writing we are in the process of sending a shipping container to Liberia which will be converted into a library to help literacy. This is a companion project to the “Coloring Book initiative.” I think this is a truly innovative way to start with the most fundamental aspect of advancing the Rule of Law; education. We have turned Rule of Law concepts into coloring books for children in Liberia as a fun way to learn to read while beginning to understand elements of the Rule of Law. These books will soon be available through the LexisNexis online bookstore as well as Amazon.
The Foundation is serving as an Observer to the Uniform Law Commission’s inquiry into whether a Model Act on Global Supply Chains is needed—and what that Model Act would look like.
It’s a fantastic start and shows some of the things that can be done with very limited resources and the enormous good will of fantastic volunteers who deserve our thanks and appreciation. So that seems an appropriate moment to turn our attention to the future.
We have a vision to advance the Rule of law around the world. No country has mastered the Rule of Law so we must work globally to support, strengthen and advance it. We are working to secure the country registrations needed to begin operations around the world.
Finally, the Foundation won its first international funding bid. We served as a “sub-recipient” on a U.S. government funded project, along with the International Legal Foundation, to enhance the defense bar and legal aid in Indonesia.
Through the strong commitment of its many volunteers and I hope shortly its many donors, the Foundation is poised for its next stage of growth to help all around the world who are needing the four elements that the Rule of Law means to us: Transparency of the Law, Access to Legal Remedy, Equal Treatment Under the Law, and Independent Judiciaries.
I hope you agree it’s been an amazing start, and, with your support, we can make a real difference. We can advance the Rule of Law and we can change the world for the better.
Ian McDougall is president, LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation and executive vice president and general counsel for LexisNexis Legal & Professional, a division of RELX Group PLC. To learn more about the Foundation, its partners and projects, click here.