“The rule of law provides the foundation for how we live, the freedoms we have, and the degree of security that we enjoy,” so said LexisNexis CEO Mike Walsh in a recent presentation to the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG).
Rule of law sounds important. We instinctively feel it’s important. But what do those words really mean?
As Mr. Walsh pointed out during an internal meeting for all LexisNexis employees across the globe, if we ask 10 people for a definition of the Rule of Law; we’re likely to get 10 different answers.
His recent presentation to representatives to CWAG was aimed, in part, to provide clarity to the definition – and also to articulate why a company like LexisNexis is putting its full weight and resources into the issue. There’s no mistaking he included a call to action for businesses everywhere to get involved.
What is the Rule of Law?
Mr. Walsh, indeed LexisNexis, has adopted the definition prescribed by the United Nations:
“The rule of law is a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.”
In his presentation, which is embedded nearby and freely available on SlideShare, he breaks the Rule of Law into four key components:
- All are equal under the law
- Transparency of law
- Independent judiciary
- Accessible legal remedy
He adds color in his commentary, of which a complete transcript is also freely available online:
“All people, businesses and governments are accountable, and the law applies to everyone in the same way, no matter who you are. There’s transparency of law. Laws must be clear, precise, affordable and accessible while protecting fundamental human rights. There must be an independent judiciary, ensuring equality and fairness. And lastly, there must be timely access to legal remedy, or access to resolution in a court of law.”
Measuring the Rule of Law
The World Justice Project has developed a global index, “the most widely respected and comprehensive body of work on this topic,” to measure the Rule of Law by country.
“The Index documents the degree to which countries adhere to the rule of law. It measures the rule of law using 44 indicators across eight categories including areas such as Absence of Corruption, Fundamental Rights, Civil Justice and Criminal Justice. More than 100,000 citizens and experts have been interviewed to determine country scores and rankings.”
Currently, Demark holds the highest ranking. Venezuela is the lowest. The United States barely ranks in the top 20 on the list, according to a chart in Mr. Wash’s presentation. We clearly have progress to make as a nation.
What the Rule of Law Means for Society
“Rule of law tends to be associated with stronger economies,” according to Mr. Walsh. “High rule of law is correlated with high GDP per capita. Low rule of law is correlated with low GDP per capita.”
His presentation makes additional points graphically. Countries with strong support for the Rule of Law have:
- Lower child mortality
- Lower homicide
- Lower corruption
- Higher life expectancy
“All of this data together bears out what we may know instinctively,” he said. “Without equality and accountability under the law, clear and transparent laws protecting human rights, an independent judiciary and access to timely legal remedy, economies have a hard time developing and the citizens of those nations suffer disproportionately.”
What the Rule of Law Means for Business
Rule of Law is essential for business, said Mr. Walsh. He points to business conditions — reliability, predictability and the “protection of rights and security contracts” and used LexisNexis as an illustrative example:
“LexisNexis is a $2.3 billion company with 10,000 employees across the globe – that includes 2,000 lawyers. And we serve customers in 175 countries.
As part of our strategic planning process, we make decisions about where we allocate our investment based on the relative attractiveness of countries around the world for our business.
Strength of rule of law is a key factor that we look at in assessing overall business climate. This translates into decisions to invest more resources in a country like, say, India (ranked 58 on the Rule of Law Index) or Brazil (ranked 45), than we do in a country like Russia (ranked 74).
This is a LexisNexis example that demonstrates how we allocate investment based in part on rule of law but just about any global business would likely look at this in a similar fashion.”
5 Ways to Support the Rule of Law
The Business for the Rule of Law (Twitter: #B4ROL) is an initiative led by United Nations Global Compact and is the “world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.” The initiative was first announced in 2013, where UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented the Global Rule of Law Business Principles.
“In order to shape and define the B4ROL Framework, the UN Global Compact convened leaders across the globe,” said Mr. Walsh. “In fact, Executive Director of CWAG, Karen White, attended a summit in Washington, DC that we hosted this past March.”
He noted the B4ROL Framework was launched in June 2015 and in essence is essence “It’s a distillation of feedback from the many voices heard around the world and a guide for businesses to support and advance the rule of law.”
The framework provides five ways businesses across the globe can facilitate the Rule of Law:
- Ensuring accountability by reducing corruption and bribery, and creating more effective and transparent institutions.
- Providing certainty by strengthening the enforcement of intellectual property and other property rights.
- Promoting equality by achieving legal identity for all, and enforcing non-discriminatory laws and policies.
- Protecting human rights by preventing violence and crime against women and children, and protecting fundamental freedoms.
- Supporting access to justice by improving public access to information, including legal education and access to the legal profession.
The Difference We Can Make
If we, collectively as a legal community, as a business community, as global community work to improve the Index by just 10%, Mr. Walsh says the results would be substantial:
- GPD per capita would go up by more than $5,000 per person.
- Crime would go down by more than 25%.
- Child mortality rates would decline from 24 to 17 per 1,000, potentially saving millions of children’s lives each year.
- Average life expectancy would increase by almost five years.
For its part, LexisNexis is actively engaged in a variety of projects. The eyeWitness to Atrocities is a prime example of an international endeavor.
Locally in Raleigh, where this blog is penned and home to the LexisNexis software division, we’ve actively supported the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA) and that organization’s efforts to refine anti-trafficking laws in North Carolina.
In 2013, among the fifty four states and territories, North Carolina topped the list ranking eighth in human trafficking. Figures from that same year indicated human trafficking was a $32 billion business in the US alone. By comparison, according to IBISWorld Market Research, Americans spend some $25 billion health club memberships each year.
In his presentation, Mr. Walsh appeals to business leaders around the globe to build awareness around the Rule of Law, review the framework and get involved. LexisNexis is all in – we hope you will join us.
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