The only way to develop a peaceful, equitable and prosperous society, is to ensure that law and justice are accessible to all and respected by everybody. This is a goal shared by Vimbai Nyemba (President of SADC Lawyers’ Association), Edward Mapara (Executive Secretary of the Law Society of Zimbabwe), Aisha Abdallah (Head of Dispute Resolution at Anjarwalla & Khanna ALN) and Teresa Jennings (Head of Rule of Law Development at LexisNexis).
Sharing their views on advancing the rule of law at the webinar, the panellists told of the strides being made and what still needs to be done.
In addition to sharing the bright spots of the work of SADC Lawyers’ Association, Nyemba said they are heavily invested in the institutionalisation of regional support facilities which promote independence of the judiciary. “Under this project we are strengthening key institutions for upholding rule of law and separation of powers which is key to us and really a problem in Southern Africa as a whole,” she said.
Asked who he believed was responsible for advancing the rule of law, Mapara said it was everyone. “When the government sits back and is not doing enough, it then means that other players have to come in … as they demand that there be rule of law.”
The private sector also has a role to play in promoting inclusive development, reducing inequality and tackling unemployment, said Abdallah.
“We have a lot of gaps in the government's provision of services to the citizens. This means the private sector has an increased role to play and bridge that gap. Most private sector organisations understand that … there is something called a social contract which is the contract with the community around them. This social contract is very important because it ensures the sustainability of the organisation,” she explained.
Jennings challenged everyone to look for new ways in which they can support some aspect of advancing the rule of law. “It could be literacy for children and having them eventually be able to read the law, or working pro bono for women to ensure that they have a seat at the table, or finding ways to meld informal justice in the customary law with the formal law; that would make real change,” she said.
In a call to action, Ramalho said every time lawyers switch on their computers they need to advance the rule of law.
“Think it, advance it, do it, work it, walk it and talk it, and take action because we are the ones who can make a difference, especially in the legal profession … one step at a time, one person at a time, one act at a time, one legislation at a time, and we can make this happen,” she urged.
Scott Cowan, CEO and founder of Africa Legal, shared that their strategic partnership with LexisNexis is to advance the rule of law in Africa, to impact the work of legal professionals across the continent, and to make an impact on the communities.
More than 400 African legal professionals from 24 African nations participated in the 2022 African Rule of Law survey; their responses showed that corruption is viewed as one of the biggest hurdles to the advancement of the rule of law in Africa.
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