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ABA Urges the House of Representatives to Maintain Funding for Rule of Law Assistance

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 2, 2012 — American Bar Association President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III has submitted written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee, highlighting the importance of fiscal year 2013 funding for rule of law assistance.

In the March 30 statement Robinson wrote, “Programs to promote the rule of law internationally are valuable and cost-effective investments of U.S. taxpayer dollars that enhance both the national security and economic prosperity of our nation.”

He explained that despite budgetary challenges facing the United States, continued assistance is vital in ensuring the protection and promotion of U.S. national security and economic interests.

“We are cognizant of the tremendous budgetary challenges facing our nation and understand that difficult decisions must be made in allocating funding,” Robinson noted.  “However, if the United States fails to invest adequate resources in this area, countries that do not share our commitment to democratic values and free markets will continue to languish and serve as destabilizing forces, to the detriment of U.S. national interests, including our economic and national security interests,” he explained.

Robinson also described the unique leadership role the U.S. plays in promoting economic development, respect for human rights and the rule of law around the world.

“Targeted foreign assistance to establish and enhance legal systems and institutions grounded in the rule of law is a critical component of U.S. foreign policy in the developing world, post-conflict countries and countries in transition,” he explained.

Robinson urged the subcommittee to recognize the benefits and prioritize assistance delivered through non-profit groups such as NGOs and private and voluntary organizations, especially since such programs must be utilized in partnership with local leaders to be most effective.

The ABA promotes the rule of law internationally most notably by providing legal technical assistance to nations around the world through the ABA Rule of Law Initiative.  For nearly two decades, ABA ROLI has worked to advance the rule of law in more than 80 countries worldwide, including conflict-prone countries such as Mali and Uganda. 

ABA ROLI responds to international requests for assistance offering expertise in nearly every area of law including women’s rights, anti-human trafficking and anti-corruption, judicial reform, prosecutorial and defense bar reform, commercial law development, and access to justice and human rights.

“While U.S. funding for rule of law programs such as these is essential, it must be utilized in partnership with local leaders in an accountable, transparent and sustainable matter.  Non-profit organizations such as the ABA are more likely to develop long-term relationships that build capacity and allow for sustainable assistance efforts, thereby leveraging U.S. taxpayer funding,” he said.  

Robinson also explained NGOs are more likely to leverage U.S. assistance dollars through the contributions of volunteers and additional sources of funding, noting that “in the case of the ABA, well over $200 million in pro bono assistance has been provided by American and overseas lawyers working directly under ABA ROLI’s aegis.”

The letter is available here.

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