American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative

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Website ABA Rule of Law Initiative

The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is a mission-driven, non-profit program grounded in the belief that rule of law promotion is the most effective long-term antidote to the most pressing problems facing the world today, including poverty, conflict, endemic corruption and disregard for human rights. The ABA established the program in 2007 to consolidate its five overseas rule of law programs, including the Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (CEELI), which it created in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Today, ABA ROLI implements legal reform programs in more than 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative has more than 400 professional staff working in the United States and abroad, including a cadre of short- and long-term expatriate volunteers who, since the program’s inception, have contributed more than $200 million in pro bono technical legal assistance.    


ABA ROLI places an emphasis on collaborative and sustainable efforts that build upon stakeholder consensus. ABA ROLI’s local partners include judges, lawyers, bar associations, law schools, court administrators, legislatures, ministries of justice, human rights organizations and civil society members. While ABA ROLI implements its technical assistance programs in a wide array of substantive areas, including commercial and property law reform, its efforts are concentrated in the seven focal areas: 

Access to Justice and Human Rights: Establishing public defender programs as well as legal aid and law school clinics, supporting justice system changes that increase access to the courts and other dispute resolution mechanisms, increasing awareness of international human rights standards and humanitarian law, and training legal professionals to seek redress for human rights violations in both domestic and regional/international courts.

Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity: ABA ROLI programs around the world focus on drafting and implementing public integrity standards and freedom-of-information laws, developing national action plans, conducting public education campaigns on the corrosive impact of corruption, and encouraging the public to combat corruption through mechanisms such as anonymous hotlines.

Criminal Law Reform and Anti-Human Trafficking: Our programs train criminal justice professionals, including police and prosecutors, to combat crimes such as human trafficking, money laundering and cyber crime, while helping to reform key criminal law legislation, such as criminal procedure codes.

Judicial Reform: ABA ROLI promotes greater independence, accountability and transparency in judicial systems, assisting in drafting and enacting codes of judicial ethics, promoting judicial education and training, and enhancing court administration and efficiency.

Legal Education Reform and Civic Education: We promote education by assisting law schools in introducing new courses and practical training that better meet the needs of tomorrow’s legal professionals and by promoting a rule of law culture through civic education campaigns on the rule of law and citizens’ rights.

Legal Profession Reform: Our work includes assisting in developing and administering first-ever bar examinations, developing codes of legal ethics and strengthening independent bar associations to serve as advocates for and protectors of the rule of law. Programs also enhance continuing legal education programs to help ensure adequate mastery of existing and newly-enacted laws.

Women’s Rights: ABA ROLI focuses on assisting both governmental officials and non-governmental organizations to address a variety of women’s rights issues, such as domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace and widespread gender-based violence (including systematic rape) in post-conflict situations.

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