Promoting respect and support for the rule of law

10 June 2015 | James Dalley

At the LexisNexis® Rule of Law Now event held in New York in September 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the Business for the Rule of Law (B4ROL) initiative, to engage the business community in efforts to support the rule of law. In March this year, Joanne Beckett, General Manager of LexisNexis Legal & Professional Australia, together with the UN Global Compact Network Australia, hosted Australia's B4ROL Workshop. The Workshop was just one of several held around the world in a joint effort by the United Nations Global Compact and LexisNexis, to serve as a critical resource in developing a global B4ROL Framework (Framework).

The UN Global Compact is the world's largest corporate responsibility initiative. As a platform, it is used to engage with business worldwide, working to encourage alignment in operations and strategies to UN principles and goals. The initiative also works with the private sector and other stakeholders to develop the B4ROL Framework. The Framework will provide guidance on how businesses can support the rule of law in regions where they operate, particularly in areas where this is not well established. It is hoped that businesses will adopt this Framework in their core business activities and through social investment, public policy engagement and advocacy, partnerships and collective action.

At the B4ROL Workshop, held in Sydney, six actions were suggested to representatives of the Australian business, legal, and not-for-profit communities. The suggested business actions were put forward to guide discussion during the course of the workshop to assist in creating a final Framework that will be a go-to for business on how to promote respect and support for the rule of law, along with the UN Global Compact's Ten Principles and UN goals.

The discussion at the workshop brought forth consensus that businesses are beginning to acknowledge their actions and the impact these may have on human rights, agreeing that respecting these rights will ultimately be in their best interests. Representatives suggested that for the final B4ROL Framework to be effective, it needs to provide business-friendly, practical and realistic steps.

To achieve this, there also needs to be an effective enforcement mechanism. While codes of conduct that are not binding or monitored are considered weak, some participants believed private codes, in the form of negotiated agreements, accompanied by independent monitoring and public reporting, could help change corporate behaviour for the better.

Working with the proposed business actions, dialogue ensued around how respective businesses might be in a position to support the rule of law. This can be accomplished through core business activities, strategic social investment, public policy engagement and collective action. Businesses also have access to resources, can make decisions about how they negotiate and interact with other stakeholders, as well as the ability to send out messages to the public through marketing campaigns and other initiatives. Some businesses are also in a position to support the rule of law through philanthropy.

LexisNexis is one example of a business that is well placed to promote support for the rule of law in the Pacific region, and has successfully done this in recent years. LexisNexis has made advancing the rule of law one of its core values as a global business.

Additionally, LexisNexis has been involved in a number of philanthropic projects that have promoted the rule of law in the region. In June 2014, LexisNexis New Zealand helped sponsor a three day workshop in Rarotonga, Samoa for lawyers and magistrates, organised by NZLS CLE Ltd and Massey University and The Cook Islands Law Society. The workshop helped to expand on the skills and tools lawyers use to achieve better outcomes for their clients, including negotiation skills and the use of judicial settlement conferences and mediation. Furthermore, LexisNexis New Zealand facilitated the delivery of a donation from the New Zealand High Court to Samoa and Niue of New Zealand Report volumes weighing a total of 560kg. The donation will help in facilitating access to the law for practicing lawyers on these Pacific islands.

The overall consensus reached at the Sydney Workshop was that where the rule of law is absent, business cannot operate. Legal transparency, contract enforcement and regulatory compliance are essential components for businesses to conduct their operations. The rule of law acts to secure these components and so it is clearly important to business. By respecting and supporting the rule of law, businesses can assist in developing an environment for markets and societies to flourish, particularly in developing regions of the world.

LexisNexis has put together a detailed report on the discussion points and issues raised in relation to the proposed business actions at the B4ROL Workshop. This report was delivered to the UN Global Compact and will be read together with reports from B4ROL Workshops held around the world to create a finalise B4ROL Framework.

James Dalley is LexisNexis Capital Monitor News & Information manager

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