CLA News / The CLA and the World Justice Project collaborate to support the rule of law


The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) and the World Justice Project (WJP) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on rule of law matters for which they share common goals.

This collaboration continues and formalises our existing cooperation, which has seen the CLA attend and present at the Asia Pacific Justice Forum in December 2022 and the WJP present at the Commonwealth Lawyers Conference in Goa in March 2023.

The WJP defines the rule of law as a durable system of laws, institutions, norms, and community commitment that delivers accountability, just law, open government and accessible and impartial justice.

 The WJP produces the Rule of Law Index which is the world’s leading source of original, independent rule of law data across eight categories being: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice.

The Index covers 140 countries and jurisdictions representing 95% of the world’s population. The Commonwealth comprises 44 countries in the Index and over a third of the world’s population, with members among the largest, smallest, wealthiest and poorest countries in the world and with many facing rule of law challenges.

Through the CLA’s network of Bar Leaders and many leading lawyers, we will support the WJP collect quality data for their Index and extend the Index to Commonwealth countries not currently included. Commonwealth Countries not included are most of the South Pacific, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, the Kingdom of Eswatini, Lesotho, Swaziland, St Helena, South Georgia & The South Sandwich Islands, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, The Falklands, Turks and Caicos, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

Elizabeth Andersen, the Director of the WJP says “Measure it, change it”. Thus, Index data is used by governments to create national plans, business leaders to evaluate risk and inform investment decisions, academics to advance critical research, and civil society leaders to advocate for change. CLA members in developing nations will be able to collaborate with the WJP through their international donor clients and private clients, and access fact based data that can be used to show the link between the rule of law and economic prosperity – the business case for the rule of law. Given that many Commonwealth countries are facing climate change emergencies, the CLA will also look for ways to work with the WJP to highlight the role environmental rule of law plays in achieving climate justice.

Our collaboration will see our leadership team officially launch our relationship at the WJP offices in Washington, participate in regional justice forums, attend the Asia Pacific Expert Meeting on Disinformation Law and the Free Flow of lnformation in Kuala Lumpur in September 2023, and attend the World Justice Forum in The Hague in 2024.

We will work closely with Dr Srirak Plipat, the WJP Asia Pacific Regional Director and other staff, and we will collaborate on further regional and thematic projects including:

Judicial Independence Project
In response to the rise of authoritarianism, the WJP is seeking to strengthen checks and balances and defend judicial independence and integrity by measuring and benchmarking it to assess the current state of judicial independence.

The CLA will work with the WJP where it can, to monitor and advocate for the promotion and protection of judicial independence, which is at the core of the CLA’s (and its sister organisation, the Commonwealth Magistrates & Judges Association’s) advocacy efforts and for which the CLA is a thought leader through its Goa Declaration on the Preservation and Strengthening of the independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (2023), and the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Accountability of and the Relationship between the Three Branches of Government (2003).

Disinformation Law Hub Initiative
The WJP believe that disinformation can be divisive and harmful to the society and that laws used to combat disinformation can cause illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression and other human rights. With the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and LexisNexis, the WJP is organising the Asia Pacific Expert Meeting on Disinformation Law and the Free Flow of Information in Kuala Lumpur in September 2023.

The CLA intends to participate in this meeting which will promote international principles and guidelines in tackling disinformation, foster a better understanding of the challenge of disinformation and provide recommendations to governments, examine the roles tech companies can play, and identify priority areas related to disinformation where civil society organisations (CSOs) should focus. This project is expected to expand globally and will complement the CLA’s collaboration on the Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance. The CLA will also be pleased to collaborate with its key partner LexisNexis on this initiative.

Ongoing Collaboration
The CLA and the WJP will look for other ways to collaborate, including:

  • Support statements issued by each other on rule of law issues.
  • Facilitating contacts and connections through each other’s networks.
  • Participating in each other’s capacity-building and technical assistance programs.
  • Consultation and exchange of information to identify additional areas and activities for effective and practical cooperation.
  • Use of Index and other data for other joint exchanges, research, analysis and publishing opportunities.
  • Participate in meetings and bodies of other parties, including with respect to the WJP, World Justice Challenge, conferences, networks and regional meetings, and with respect to the CLA, Commonwealth Law Conferences, webinars, and other regional initiatives.

Click here to view the Memorandum of Understanding in full

David Denniston

CLA Council member for Papua New Guinea