Advancing Sustainable Development: World Bank’s Legal Vice President Visits Promotes Law Societies Compact and Forum for SDG 16 during IBA Annual Conference in Paris

During the IBA annual conference 2023 in Paris, the Law Societies’ Compact and Forum for SDG 16, a sister initiative of the Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development powered by the World Bank, took center stage. Among many other activities and meetings, World Bank General Counsel Christopher Stephens and Compact and Forum Steering Committee member Judith Aldersey-Williams at the kind invitation of the IBA’s Bar Executive Committee delivered a joint presentation to Bar senior executives of the world, highlighting the importance of lawyers to sustainable development.

Said presentation began with an introduction to the World Bank Group by Christopher Stephens. He emphasized the organization’s commitment to supporting member countries in achieving their development objectives. A lot can be done in partnering with the private sector, providing advisory services, and promoting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations in 2015. The organization aims to ensure that projects it supports are sustainable, inclusive, and minimize negative environmental and social impacts.

One of the key themes discussed was the critical role of the rule of law in advancing sustainable development. Christopher Stephens highlighted the importance of fair, transparent, and effective lawmaking and implementation. Upholding the rule of law contributes to better policy dialogue, public confidence in institutions, and inclusive economic growth. The World Bank recognizes the need for law reform and the use of data analytics to uphold the rule of law and human rights.

During the Q&A session, participants raised important questions and shared insights on various topics. Paul Mollerup of the Association of Danish Law Firms emphasized the need for predictability, fairness, expertise, and integrity in the legal sector. The Canadian Bar Association highlighted the challenges of upholding the Rule of Law development efforts, particularly in developing countries with authoritarian governance and lack of transparency. The Secretary General of CCBE, Simone Cuomo, emphasized the special role of lawyers in upholding the rule of law and contributing to stable economies.

Judith Aldersey-Williams then took the floor to introduce the Law Societies Compact and Forum for SDG 16, emphasizing its role in promoting access to justice and the rule of law. The Compact and Forum, focused on bars, law societies and lawyers’ organizations, aims to leverage the work of its members and act as a knowledge hub. It has working groups to share best practice around right to asylum and access to justice initiatives and has plans for further work on capacity building, good governance of law societies, and to address key areas such as law and technology and access to justice for children in conflict with the law. The Compact and Forum aims to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing among its members to amplify their impact and their voice.

This joint presentation highlighted the significance of the Law Societies Compact and Forum for SDG 16 in advancing sustainable development within the legal sector. The World Bank’s commitment to supporting member countries in achieving their development objectives, along with the engagement of legal professionals through the Compact and Forum, plays a crucial role in promoting access to law, upholding the rule of law, and contributing to a more sustainable and just society.

Finally, this recent dialogue in Paris showcased the effectiveness of the Compact and Forum as a valuable platform for legal professionals to engage in dialogue, collaborate, and share knowledge. This event emphasized the significance of their role in driving positive change within the legal community. Furthermore, it is worth noting that 16 out of the 32 law societies present at the meeting expressed their interest in joining the initiative by providing written confirmation. We cannot wait to welcome them onboard!

From left to right: Merete Smith, Vice-Chair of the IBA Bar Executives Committee, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Bar Association, Judith Aldersey-Williams, Member of the Steering Committee of the Law Societies’ Compact & Forum for SDG 16 Steering Committee, Of Counsel at CMS, Christopher H. Stephens, Senior Legal Vice President and General Counsel of the World Bank, Julie Couturier, President of the Paris Bar Association, Paul Mollerup, Vice-Chair of the IBA Bar Executives Committee, Managing Director of the the Association of Danish Law Firms

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