"Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." These are originally the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., but Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seems like a more than adequate stand-in. Her personal arc towards justice has been long and incredibly successful. Hearing about her career and her perspective on the rule of law, women in the legal profession, and the current state of the world was an incredible start to a week of illustrious and captivating speakers at the fifth World Justice Forum.
The Forum is held every couple of years by the World Justice Project, a D.C.-based non-profit that cites as its primary goal improving the rule of law. Before attending the Forum, my limited understanding of the rule of law was two-pronged: one part ensuring effective, enforceable legal infrastructure, the second improving access to justice. That definition seems incredibly narrow and reductionist, like looking through a keyhole, after four days of panels and presentations from environmentalists, journalists, former and current statesmen (and women), statisticians, IT experts, lawyers, judges, filmmakers, and even one professional athlete offering their experiences and debating solutions for improving the rule of law.
The panelists and participants came from around the globe, and it seemed like I couldn't even turn around without running into someone I'd never imagined I would be able to meet. A former commissioner appointed by Nelson Mandela to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a restorative justice body assembled after the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, sat next to me at a brown bag lunch. At a coffee break, my supervisor introduced me to the panelists speaking during International IDEA's contribution to the Forum on post-conflict constitution-building and the rule of law. The panelists included a sitting Justice on Kosovo's highest court, the Constitutional Court, an international legal scholar, a legal adviser to the President of Georgia, and a representative from the International Development Law Organization ("IDLO").
Over the course of the week I filled an entire notebook of my experiences, but I will mention a few highlights here. Two films were screened that are absolutely worth viewing: Tickling Giants (about Egypt's Jon Stewart), and Presunto Culpable (about the Mexican judiciary through the lens of two attorneys trying to exonerate a wrongly convicted man). Now that the Forum opened the door, and I'm no longer peering through a keyhole, the vastness of the problems and the people affected by a lack of rule of law around the globe is overwhelming. But the Forum was self-aware. Without coordination, both Justice Ginsburg and the CEO of the World Justice Project used the same Martin Luther King, Jr. quote in their opening remarks to remind participants and speakers that although the problems are extensive, the people in that room are the ones bending the way towards justice.
World Forum, The Hague, Netherlands