International Initiatives

  • December 11, 2015

The importance of the rule of law

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

In September, UN member-countries made a commitment to peace, security and economic development for the next 15 years, by adopting 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon has called “a to-do list for people and the planet.”

Together the 17 goals have 169 targets that will only be reached if all sectors of society work toward the same ends.

While Goal #16 is itself a rule-of-law goal, the rule of law, and the structure, consistency and equality inherent in a society that works under an established and predictable set of laws, is acknowledged as vital for the success of all of the other goals.

CBA International Initiatives was one of the many actors working to have rule of law included in the SDGs.

Project Director Jennifer Khor and Robin Sully, Secretary-Treasurer for the International Commission of Jurists – Canada, wrote this blog post for Huffington Post Canada, to explain why.

Law days in East Africa

Law Day is a big event for the Canadian Bar Association – we like it so much we do what we can to see other countries take up the practice.

The CBA has been working with the law societies of East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda) since the late 1990s. As part of our discussions about the profession’s responsibility to ensure access to justice and improve the understanding of lawyers’ role in the justice system, we’ve talked about what we do in Canada for Law Day/Week. The law societies of Uganda and Tanzania eventually started to run Pro Bono Day (Uganda) and Legal Aid Day (Tanzania), offering free legal advice in central, accessible areas such as markets. These have expanded across each country, and are now generally run the same week as Legal Aid Week, which was subsequently developed by the governments to try to educate the public on the legal system and legal institutions.

Tanzania’s Legal Aid Week has just concluded. This year’s event, which ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 5, focused on four main issues: increasing legal awareness to the community, on gender-based violence and land rights; promoting the work of paralegals; increasing paralegals’ capacity to provide legal assistance; and increasing the number of lawyers providing pro bono services.

In Canada, the April 17 date of Law Day marks the anniversary of the signing of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. Vietnam, with some encouragement from CBA lawyers working there, started celebrating Lawyers’ Day in 2011, and in 2013 the country’s prime minister recognized Oct. 10 as the Traditional Day of Lawyers. Oct. 10 marks the date Ho Chi Minh first recognized the country’s legal profession.

The Law Society of Kenya launched Legal Aid Awareness Week in 2007, where lawyers and other legal providers, such as paralegals, offer free legal services to members of the public. The courts in Kenya also have Court Open Days, where members of the public can visit the courts, observe mock trials, speak to members of the judicary and also get some free legal advice.