Foundation for economic and social developmentCountries lacking the rule of law seldom meet the most basic needs of their populations. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), more than half of the earth’s population lives in countries where the rule of law does not exist. Also, relegating millions of people to a life absent of basic justice, economic opportunity, and even personal safety. Essential to the rule of law’s existence is an independent and impartial judiciary. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary states that judges must “decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without . . . improper influences, inducements, or pressures . . . direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.” The need for the rule of law rings especially true for developing nations. Within the UNs’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the rule of law, along with democracy and good governance, considered essential for sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, environmental protection, and eradicating poverty. As nations develop, they need a strong legal system with comprehensive property, contract, labor, bankruptcy, commercial codes, and personal rights laws that are effectively administered by an impartial and honest judicial system. Unless this exists, important economic institutions such as banks, corporations, and labor unions cannot operate properly. Furthermore, legal systems that produce unfair and incompetent judicial decisions will financially damage litigants. And will harm shareholders, eliminate jobs, and impede the local market’s ability to produce goods and services. Additionally, state involvement in the economy and other areas of governance will likely be inefficient, arbitrary, and unfair.
Economic Growth and Social DevelopmentDespite the seemingly logical impetus to foster the rule of law, several developing nations have aggressively pursued economic development while ignoring or undermining legal reform. This approach is erroneously short-sighted, as it sacrifices sustainable economic development for short-term growth. As one World Bank official put it, “the payoffs from a successful judicial reform, in terms of economic growth and development, more than justify the involved work.” Effective legal systems stimulate domestic and foreign investment because private investors desire a marketplace where property and contractual rights are predictable without the presence of corruption. In nations without effective rule of law, economic growth will be threatened. Also, their marketplaces will only attract speculative investment or long-term, low-capital investments. Beyond economic growth, the rule of law also inextricably connected to other facets of national development, including but not limited to public health and environmental protection. As articulated by the ABA, the promotion of the rule of law can advance objectives in each of these fields. Especially when founded upon a human rights-based approach. The rule of law also serves to protect the rights of citizens to associate, practice their faith, and freely express themselves. These fundamental civil liberties enrich society and are the foundational blocks for holding power accountable. This is perhaps why in developing nations where corruption is rife and the legal system highly politicized. These rights are rarely if ever safeguarded.
The Rule of Law Needs Judicial IndependenceAlthough the rule of law cannot function without judicial independence, It is equally important that developing nations also foster a culture of judicial accountability. As mentioned by the ABA’s Rule of Law Initiative, courts around the globe often plagued with corruption that goes unanswered. This erodes often-already fragile public trust in the fairness and efficiency of the judicial system. Thanks to improvements in technology, we are in an era of unprecedented globalization. Knowledge and culture rapidly move between different peoples. Nations are financially and materially dependent upon one another like never before. Despite this unparalleled interconnectedness, there is a clear delineation between nations where people are confident in the rule of law. And nations where the rule of law may as well be the title of a work of fiction. Without meaningful legal reforms, the latter category of nations will never be equal participants on the world stage.
omar ayesh © 2021