Rule of Law

The promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in all jurisdictions of the world is essential to support the development of democratic institutions, the protection of social, political and human rights and a viable context for economic growth at local level as well as a core factor to ensure international peace and security at international level.

This concept was restated also by the United Nations in the Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels issued in 2012 with Resolution A/RES/67/1 of the General Assembly.


In 2004 in his report, The Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan defined the rule of law as, “a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.”

In addition, Thomas Carothers (1998), internationally renowned author of books on the topic with particular emphasis on the relation of the rule of law with development defined the rule of law as “a system in which the laws are public knowledge, are clear in meaning, and apply equally to everyone.” Specifically, the rule of law involves the following “anyone accused of a crime has the right to a fair, prompt hearing and is presumed innocent until proved guilty. The central institutions of the legal system, including courts, prosecutors, and police, are reasonably fair, competent, and efficient. Judges are impartial and independent, not subject to political influence or manipulation. Perhaps most important, the government is embedded in a comprehensive legal framework, its officials accept that the law will be applied to their own conduct, and the government seeks to be law-abiding.”
(Definitions excerpt from the article by Maturu,S. (2013) "The United Nations Peacekeeping and Rule of Law Reform in Post-Conflict Countries" Journal of Politics and Societies, Fall 2013 pp.67-90.)

Other contributions

The Rule of Law, in its most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law. The rule follows logically from the idea that truth, and therefore law, is based upon fundamental principles which can be discovered, but which cannot be created through an act of will. The most important application of the rule of law is the principle that governmental authority is legitimately exercised only in accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws adopted and enforced in accordance with established procedural steps that are referred to as due process. The principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance, whether by a totalitarian leader or by mob rule. Thus, the rule of law is hostile both to dictatorship and to anarchy. 
"There can be no Rule of Law unless there is access to the basic sources of law." — Theuns Viljoen, CEO, LexisNexis Pacific Rule of Law cannot exist without a transparent legal system, the main components of which are a clear set of laws that are freely and easily accessible to all, strong enforcement structures, and an independent judiciary to protect citizens against the arbitrary use of power by the state, individuals or any other organization. In some countries the average citizen, businesses trying to operate in those countries, and even practicing lawyers have limited access to laws or legal decisions (LexisNexis website). 


USAID Guide to rule of law. Country analysis: the rule of law strategic framework.
This guide of USAID focuses on promoting rule of law as a basis for democratic governance. It complements Conducting a Democracy and Governance Assessment: A Framework for Strategy Development (November 2000) by providing further elaboration on rule of law. It builds on an earlier USAID piece on rule of law, Weighing in on the Scales of Justice (February 1994), while focusing more closely on the links between the rule of law and democracy. Relevant background documents can be found on the USAID website at and the USAID development experience clearinghouse at

Stephen Golub, Beyond Rule of Law Orthodoxy: The Legal Empowerment Alternative.
The international aid field of law and development focuses too much on law, lawyers and state institutions, and too little on development, the poor and civil society. In fact, it is doubtful whether "rule of law orthodoxy," the dominant paradigm pursued by many international agencies, should be the central means for integrating law and development.

As the Report highlights, the sources of legal exclusion are numerous and very often country-specific. However, four common threads stand out. First, legal empowerment is impossible when poor people are denied access to a well-functioning justice system. Second, most of the world’s poor lack effective property rights and the intrinsic economic power of their property remains untapped. Third, poor people, in particular women and children, suffer unsafe working conditions because their employers often operate outside the formal legal system. Fourth, poor people are denied economic opportunities as their property and businesses are not legally recognised. They cannot access credit, investment nor global and local markets

Hague Journal on the Rule of Law
The journal aims to deepen and broaden the knowledge of the rule of law and its relation to economic growth, poverty reduction, promotion of democracy, protection of human rights and geopolitical stability. The journal invites and will publish academic articles, practitioner reports and commentary, book reviews and special volumes on major developments and themes in the rule of law field.

The World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index 2014  offers a detailed, multidimensional view of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in practice, and is the most comprehensive index of its kind. To date, over 100,000 citizens and experts have been interviewed in 99 countries. Index findings have been referenced by heads of state, chief justices, business leaders, public officials, and the press, including cites by more than 500 media outlets in nearly 80 countries. The Index measures the rule of law using 47 indicators organized around 8 themes: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice. More than 500 variables are computed to produce these indicators for every country. 





Open Society Justice Initiative

Rule of Law Index

Websites (to be updated)

International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law

British Library exposition

United Nations Rule of Law

United Nations Institute of Peace