Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 2013

Liberty and Justice for All: Behind the Scenes at the 2013 World Justice Forum

By Christopher Durso, Executive Editor

is,” Ward said. “For instance, we have a panel on legal and economic empowerment of the poor. This is a topic that people talk about all the time and it's very academic and sort of intellectual. You can wax on eloquently about how poor people are and how sad it is, but that's not that interesting. What's really interesting is to get the people who are innovating out there in the field, who are actually making change happen for these populations around the world.”

Panel: ‘Role of the Military in Advancing the Rule of Law’

Indeed, that panel was held on Wednesday afternoon — its official name was “Economic and Legal Empowerment Through a Robust Rule of Law” — and was notable for its hard-edged approach to a potentially dry, nebulous topic. After moderator Zaza Namoradze, director of the Budapest office of the Open Society Justice Initiative, set up the discussion and introduced the panelists, one of them — Stephen Golub, an international-development consultant and lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law — said, smiling: “Whenever I hear myself described as a scholar or professor, I kind of look around and say, ‘Who are you talking to?’ Because even though I teach part-time, it's not mainly what I consider myself doing. I'm more of a practitioner.” Golub coined the term “legal empowerment,” which, he told attendees, is “about much more than law and lawyers. And I would argue that justice is often about more than that. What often brings about justice, legal empowerment, whatever term we want to use in which law and rights are used to help improve people's control over their lives, the quality of their lives, their material circumstances — can involve many other skills and features.

“Community organizing in some places,” Golub said. “Integration of law and rights to help people ... to take advantage of medical services that might be available to them even in a poor country but that otherwise they're denied because they don't know that health professionals are supposed to be on the job, that they're not supposed to be charged or overcharged for certain medicines. Things along those lines. The use of social media is a growing phenomenon. Investigative journalism can contribute to justice and the rule of law and legal empowerment. So when we think about legal empowerment, it's not just about law and lawyers.”

Golub's co-panelists bore that out. Yasmin Batliwala, CEO of London-based Advocates for International Development (A4ID), reviewed three projects that A4ID has implemented: partnering with Sierra Leone's Society for Democratic Initiatives to educate people about the country's new Anti-Corruption Act following its 10-year civil war; training Rwandan government officials, on behalf of the United Nations Development Program, with regard to contract negotiations; and, with Global Witness, which works against corruption related to natural resources, making recommendations to overhaul the Democratic Republic of Congo's mining code. Likewise, Faustina Pereira, director of human rights and legal aid services for BRAC (formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), discussed her organization's work against poverty in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. “BRAC calls it the whole-person development,” Pereira said, “starting from the point of conception to birth to death; whether it is neonatal birth assistance to inoculation to safe birth to nutrition to adolescent development to preventing early child marriages to domestic violence and agricultural support, etc., etc., etc., right up to the point of death.... I think it's fantastic to have this kind of canvas to work in, because it provides you not only the scale but the ability to also demonstrate impact.”

Even that morning's keynote began with Song Sang-Hyun, president of the International Criminal Court (ICC), recounting his experiences as a 9-year-old boy hiding with his family in Seoul and scavenging for food during the Korean War — but Song took pains to connect his harrowing personal history to the ICC's role in strengthening the international rule of law. “Ultimately, my work led to the International Criminal Court,” he said, “which brought me back to the terrible consequences of armed conflict and unrestrained brutality.”


The Hague is the seat of Holland's government and home to more than 150 international organizations, including the ICC, and the World Forum itself is surrounded by the headquarters for Europol, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. World Justice Forum IV's presence in the City of Peace and Justice, as The Hague is known, was not an accident.

“The World Justice Forum and the World Justice Project sought a destination where they could get a platform,” David Bodor, strategic marketing officer with Den Haag Marketing, said over lunch at Worldhotel Bel Air The Hague on Tuesday. “Because they have a message, and that's I think also why they chose the destination of The Hague, because we're geared towards facilitating these types of events. It's the international City of Peace and Justice, so we have knowledge institutions, networks, lobbying groups, and we can provide these type of events and these types of people a public stage.”

The World Justice Forum was held in Vienna in 2008 and 2009, and in Barcelona in 2011 — both veteran first-tier cities for international conferences. But WJP was looking for something more. “The reason why we've moved to The Hague for World Justice Forum IV is that The Hague is a global City of Peace and Justice,” Ward said, “so thematically we have a strong resonance and a strong community there that understands the work that we're doing and is deeply engaged in these issues at every level, from the most localized social-justice advocates working in the Netherlands to many, many institutions who truly have a global scope and expertise, and are global leaders in these discussions around justice issues.”

Keynote: ‘From Inspiration to Action’

From the beginning, The Hague was a key partner in the conference, as both a world capital and a city with its own particular knowledge economy. WJP began by reaching out to The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL), which describes itself as “an advisory and research institute for the justice sector,” and which facilitated introductions between WJP and various local organizations and institutions. Ivo Opstelten, Holland's minister of security and justice, spoke at World Justice Forum IV's opening reception, held at Worldhotel Bel Air on Monday night, and The Hague's municipal government hosted a reception at city hall on Tuesday night, with remarks by Mayor Jozias van Aartsen.

Ward made a site visit to The Hague in September 2012 — “I had 27 meetings in three days,” she said — which both helped WJP get to know the destination and bolstered its credibility on the ground. “Because I went there in person and our executive director had been there on previous visits,” Ward said, “they understood that we were serious about our work and that the work that we were doing was supporting what that city is already working towards. So having that natural fit really helped a lot, and then amplifying that with personal visits and building of personal relationships really helped.”

That dynamic was in play on both sides of the relationship. “We for sure go out and seek these [types of] events, being a second-tier destination,” Bodor said. “We have to identify our USPs [unique selling propositions] and then actively pursue conferences and events in these

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