The rule of law is not only critical to a peaceful and prosperous society, it also affects organisational practice and ultimately business success. Business First speaks with LexisNexis Managing Director Joanne Beckett about the rule of law and how it is used to bring about positive change.
LexisNexis plays a critical role in supporting and advancing the principles of the rule of remains independent and not subject to outside influence and apply the law fairly and without law – something which is not only imperative for business, but for society more broadly.
According to Managing Director Joanne Beckett, the rule of law is a complicated concept and should not be seen as something abstract, as it has immense influence on our society.
“As an organisation, we believe that the rule of law is the foundation of all other human rights, it is also a necessity for
businesses to exist and succeed. We define the rule of law through four key areas.”
First, is the fundamental concept of equality before the law. The right to view every person equal under the law.
That is, “All people, businesses and governments are accountable under the law, and the law applies to everybody in the same way no matter who you are. No one is above the law. Whether you’re a citizen, a monarch, rich or poor, everyone should be treated the same way.”
The second principal is a need for transparency of the law.
“If you don’t know what the law is, how do you seek its protection? This principal is key to LexisNexis and the work we do to ensure that the law is clear, precise, current and accessible.”
Thirdly is the importance of an independent judiciary.
“An independent judiciary ensures that there is assurance of fairness that’s not tainted by bias and conflict. For example,
politicians and governments make laws – and whilst there’s political influence at play – the judiciary bias.”
Lastly, there has to be access to justice and timely legal remedy.
“You can have fair laws and you can have laws that are fairly applied. However, if you don’t have access or can’t gain access to those institutions that will uphold those laws and justice, then you have no remedy.”
Ms Beckett, a former police officer turned lawyer, who joined LexisNexis in 2006 and worked through various positions until her appointment as Managing Director in 2015, says the rule of law is crucial for economic and business success and growth.
She believes the more we advance the rule of law around the world and bring people within the umbrella protection of the law, the more economies will prosper and grow, increasing business opportunities.
She refers to several studies that have shown there is a direct correlation between the rule of law and the growth of per capita
GDP. There’s also evidence that the absence of the rule of law leads to economic slow-down, stagnation and decline.
“One such body of work on this topic is the Rule of Law Index produced by the World Justice Project. The Rule of Law Index comprehensively analyses the strength of the rule of law in over one hundred countries across several key indicators such as fundamental rights, civil justice, absence of corruption and constraints on government powers. Each country is ranked and given an overall rating and regional rating,” Ms Beckett says.
LexisNexis leveraged its technology and expertise in content and data to further demonstrate the relationship between strengthening the rule of law and economic and social development around the world. By using the ratings applied by the Rule of Law Index, LexisNexis included economic and social data such as GDP, homicide rates and life expectancy and identified relationships and patterns emerging from the data sets.
This data is presented in the Rule of Law Tracker created by LexisNexis which enables the user to visually identify the impact of the rule of law on economic and social development. The Tracker allows the user to scale up and down on the rule of law index ratings and see correlation to key economic and social indicators.
“The Tracker enables users to calculate the effects that improvements in the rule of law mean score would have on economic and social development. It’s quite clear from the data and relationships that the rule of law has an incredible impact on prosperity and growth,” Ms Beckett says.
“Without equality and accountability under the law, clear and transparent laws, an independent judiciary and access to timely legal remedy, meaningful economic and business development is challenging.
Citizens, institutions and foreign investors will suffer disproportionately without much reassurance that their risks are protected.”
Could the rule of law also be the cornerstone for sustainable global development?
“Projects like the World Justice Project and indeed our very own Rule of Law Impact Tracker clearly indicate that the greater the existence of rule of law in a country, the more prosperous it is with direct influence on economic and social growth.”
Technology has also had an impact in enabling greater access to legal information or documentation to enable greater transparency and access to the law.
Ms Beckett cited a global app the company developed with the International Bar Association called EyeWitness to Atrocities as an example of technological assistance to help protect human rights.
The app enables users to anonymously capture verifiable media evidence of human rights abuses and can be used as evidence in court.
“We believe that this type of technology is transformational in its documentation of human rights atrocities. It’s a game changing app. It uses digital technology that helps human rights activists bring criminals to justice.”
LexisNexis partners with various organisations around the world to actively advance the rule of law.
In Australia, it has worked with the Human Rights Commission to update and relaunch an online publication focusing on federal discrimination law and also developed RightsApp, which is a mobile app that consolidates several relevant UN conventions and declarations by theme and with country information. LexisNexis also partnered with the National Association of Community Legal Centres and the Australian Pro Bono Centre on projects last year that enable access to justice for people in Australia that may not otherwise have that access.
“We provide high quality online legal resources to Community Legal Centres operating across Australia, which enables better access to justice for their disadvantaged clients that they assist,’’ Ms Beckett concludes.
All in all, LexisNexis is about putting information and technology in the right hands to help shape justice and advance society. In doing so, it helps to advance society in a way that not only furthers the case for human rights, but also improves global economic viability.