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July 5, 2008

Helping the World Achieve Peace and Prosperity

Standing room only at this World Justice Forum session

Standing room only at this World Justice Forum session

In the World Justice Forum’s second session on its opening day, a high-level panel discussed ways in which the rule of law can help the world achieve peace and prosperity.

Stephen G. Breyer, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, recommended an approach of reasonableness, continual building, sharing of information and conversation. He applauded the Forum as a venue for all four of those characteristics. As Breyer noted, “Conversations have no definite beginning and no definite end; they may not even have a definite subject. No one wins a conversation. But it’s the conversation that is at the root of democracy. Real democracy doesn’t work unless there are many, many, many conversations.”

Graciela Dixon, president of the International Association of Women Judges and former chief justice of Panama, called for a “new concept of the social contract” and suggested that the rule of law can provide the set of rules needed to achieve sustainable economic development, fair and inclusive distribution of wealth, and accessible educational systems.

Senator Robert Badinter, a member of the Parliament of France, called for a focus on rooting out corruption, especially judicial corruption, which he called “the worst nightmare,” because it “uses the law [to work] against what the law has been made for.” He noted that modern corruption reflects particular characteristics: it is mostly organized corruption, it works through organized criminality such as trafficking of weapons and women, and it utilizes modern technologies. He also flagged more subtle ways of corrupting justice, such as the use of political influence to manipulate judges.

As for how to fight corruption, Badinter called for independence for the judiciary, adequate remuneration for judges and an independent body that oversees judicial ethics. He commented that these methods are widely known, but are not practiced. He suggested that one outcome of the Forum could be formation of groups to document effective techniques for fighting corruption in different regions of the world.

Salih Mahmoud Osman created drop-dead quiet in the hall when he opened his remarks by saying, “I come from Darfur. In my country, Sudan, and specifically in Darfur, I’m afraid … there is no rule of law, there is no prosperity, there is no peace.”

Osman, a member of the Sudan National Assembly and winner of the 2007 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, called on the international community to challenge the culture and atmosphere of impunity in Darfur. “We have been let down by the international community. We hear tough words, we don’t see acts. We are not asking you a favor, just reminding you of your ethical and moral responsibilities.”

The session was moderated by Beverely McLachlin, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Learn More About:  World Justice Project