IBA Washington 2016 Opening Ceremony speech - David W Rivkin


IBA Washington Annual Conference Opening Ceremony Speech September 18, 2016

Managing Director Lagarde, friends and colleagues:

Welcome to Washington. It is a pleasure for me to welcome all of you to my home country and to our nation’s capital: more than 6000 delegates; more than 1000 at our annual conference for the first time. I was delighted to be able to open the ceremony with quintessentially American music from Broadway. Thank you to the remarkable Kelli O’Hara.

It is an exciting time to be in Washington, and it is very appropriate for the IBA to be holding an annual conference here. It is not only the center of the US Government but of many multilateral agencies. The Capitol Building was designed by a British doctor, and the White House by an Irish architect. A Frenchman, Pierre L’Enfant, designed the city. Remembering the lessons of the French Revolution, he designed the streets to intersect in many traffic circles so that the capital could be more easily defended if rural peasants chose to storm it. We are much less concerned about that prospect now than about the traffic delays that the circles routinely cause.

I learned this week that Washington DC consumes more wine per capita than any state in the nation. I am sure that we will do our best to increase that advantage this week. I want to thank our Host Committee, chaired by Carolyn Lamm, for the work it has done to assist the IBA in planning the conference.

Since its founding in 1947, the IBA has been dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the Rule of Law throughout the world. Today, as we face many new challenges to the Rule of Law, it is important to remember that it is neither a new concept nor one rooted only in the tradition of a few countries. The Rule of Law is an ancient and universal concept. As early as the 5th century BC, China developed the philosophy of legalism -- a political system based on laws. In ancient Greece, Plato wrote, “Where the law is subject to some other authority and has none of its own, the collapse of the state is not far off.

When I had the honor of visiting the Mexican Supreme Court last month, I saw on its walls a statement by Cicero that “We are servants to the Supreme Court in order to be free.”

In Islamic law, the concept of justice is paramount. The Quran says, “And if you judge, judge with justice between them. Verily, Allah loves those who act justly.”

And of course, last year, the IBA joined with many others in celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, a document that continues to inspire the conviction that no person, not even a Ruler, is above the law, as well as the fundamental principle that any accused person is entitled to due process.

Since we last met in Vienna, the IBA has had an extraordinary year in serving this mission. In January in Myanmar, I had the honor of joining Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in addressing the inaugural conference of the Independent Lawyers Association of Myanmar. Thanks to the diligent work of the IBA’s Human Rights Institute in forming this association, thousands of lawyers came together in the recognition that independent lawyers serving their clients’ interests, free of government interference, are an essential step in the creation of a new democracy.

Similarly in Cuba, the IBA has been conducting training for Cuban lawyers on international business law: Cuba cannot open its doors to new trade and investment unless lawyers have the ability to serve their clients in these areas.

Earlier this year, the IBA Council adopted the IBA Practical Guide for Business Lawyers on Business and Human Rights. No matter what your practice area, we must advise our clients in a manner that assists them in avoiding human rights impacts and promotes their, and our, integrity.

The IBA’s Presidential Initiatives have taken many important, practical steps towards solving some of our most difficult problems. Our Judicial Integrity Initiative published an enormously useful report on the types of corruption that arise in judicial systems and the manner in which such corruption occurs. Building from that base, the Initiative is now undertaking many projects designed to have a practical impact in reducing corruption in judiciaries where it occurs.

Last month, I attended a ceremony in Mexico City at which the Chief Justice and the presidents of the three Mexican bars signed the IBA Judicial Anti-Corruption Compact. Through the Compact, individual judges, lawyers, prosecutors and court administrators commit to each other and to the public that they will not engage in corrupt activities and that they will report any such activities that they may witness. By publishing the Compact and its signatories on the websites of our member bar associations and the judiciaries, we hope to change the expectation in many countries that corruption is the only way to succeed in a judicial proceeding. We look forward to many other countries following Mexico’s excellent example.

We are also working on developing a set of standards and an organization through which judiciaries may be certified as having procedures in place that will prevent corrupt activities. We are researching best practices in investigating allegations of judicial corruption, and also the manner in which all of our member bar associations and law societies investigate and sanction potential corrupt conduct by their members. And we are surveying national laws to determine if the laws, in fact, make illegal the types of corruption found in our survey. If we find gaps and deficiencies, the IBA will propose a model statute to correct them.

The Presidential Task Force on Human Trafficking has issued a seminal report on the impact of corruption on human trafficking. The report makes vividly clear that human trafficking could not occur without corruption, and it proposes concrete steps that governments, private companies and NGOs should take to prevent human trafficking. I had the honor of presenting these findings, along with the IBA’s efforts on judicial corruption, to a conference of judges and prosecutors organized by the Vatican. At the conference, Pope Francis gave a beautiful and passionate speech about the necessity of the law in preserving morality. The Pope proclaimed, “Justice is the first attribute of society.”

The Presidential Task Force on the Independence of the Legal Profession has also issued an important report on the essential criteria of an independent bar and why an independent bar is so essential to democracy. These reports are available on the IBA website, and I encourage you to read them. Whatever your area of practice, you will find them illuminating.

The IBA’s work on Climate Change Justice and Human Rights has continued aggressively as many IBA committees have worked to implement the recommendations of our flagship 2014 report. Our working groups on remedies and adaptation have drafted important proposals that will be discussed at this conference.

I strongly encourage you to attend the showcase sessions this week at which the work of each of these task forces is discussed. You will be proud of the work they have done.

I also want to thank and to praise the work of the IBA’s 77 committees. Unfortunately there are too many excellent projects for me to describe, but I want to thank all of the committee chairs and members who have done this work for the profession.

From the Vatican to David Cameron’s governmental conference on corruption to a UN conference on climate change headed by Ban Ki-Moon, and in many other fora, the IBA’s voice has been sought and listened to as the authoritative voice of the legal profession – for the ideas that we present and the contributions we have made and will continue to make.

The conference this week offers more than the usual number of extraordinary sessions.

To be in Washington at the end of an Administration I very much admire gives us a chance to hear from high government officials about their view of the world and what the Obama Administration has achieved. Whatever else you have planned for this week, please come to the four special Morning Keynote Addresses, to be presented by three Cabinet officers and Congressman: On Monday, the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who has a unique perspective on how to combat terrorism while maintaining adherence to the rule of law; on Tuesday, the Deputy US Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Holleyman, who will discuss the latest status of TPP and TTIP and why the Administration believes that TPP can have a direct and meaningful impact developing the rule of law in the region; on Wednesday, we can hear directly from Attorney General Loretta Lynch –who has been called the savior of FIFA -- about US efforts to combat corruption, human trafficking, terrorism and cyber-crime. And on Thursday, we will discuss the Presidential election and the stalemate that affects Washington politics with Congressman Scott Peters. I hope that you will join me at all of these keynotes at 9:30 each morning; we have scheduled the committee sessions to start after they are concluded, so that everyone has a chance to attend and ask questions of these officials.

And we have a roll call of other guests: Colin Powell, Robert Mueller, SEC Chair Mary Jo White and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy t name a few. And of course, in a few moments, we have the privilege of hearing from a leader with enormous influence around the world: IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. I am looking forward to hearing from her, as I know you are.

At the Rule of Law Day, you can also share in an IBA project that has been very meaningful and thoroughly enriching. At the beginning of my term, we searched for young Israeli and Palestinian lawyers who would one day be leaders in their communities in the hope that bringing them together to discuss issues of common interest and international law could help to reduce conflict in their region and bring them closer to peace. We found 12 extraordinary Israeli and Palestinian lawyers. We brought them to Prague for three three-day sessions and again this weekend in Washington, and the results have far exceeded our expectations. They have bonded; they have cried together; they have respectfully disagreed; and they have found common approaches to international law to propose solutions to intractable problems. Witnessing their discussions has been among the most memorable moments of my IBA Presidency. On Friday morning, many of them will appear together in our Rule of Law program to discuss what they have learned from one another. They will be joined by two experts who have worked towards Middle East peace.

Please come and share the experience that has so touched me.

This has been a challenging year for lawyers around the world. We have seen lawyers and judges imprisoned, disbarred and removed from office in China, Turkey, Venezuela, Egypt and elsewhere. In Pakistan, we have witnessed the premeditated slaughter of lawyers who had come to a hospital in respect of a bar leader who had been previously assaulted. Those who want to rule autocratically know that they have to intimidate and remove lawyers who will use the rule of law to oppose them.

As lawyers who have been fortunate enough to be successful in our practices, we have an obligation to speak out to make clear that this cannot stand. As IBA President, I have used the power of the office to speak directly to those who suppress lawyers and freedom. All of us have the power to do so, as individuals, collectively or through our bars, and we must do so. Our Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, little knowing that he would one day be the subject of perhaps the most successful musical in Broadway history, wrote in the Federalist Papers, “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society.”

One way to benefit lawyers under attack is for all of us to do a better job explaining to the general public the important role that we play in defending everyone’s liberties, the time and expense we commit to defending those who cannot afford to pay us, and in making the law more fair and just for all. Write a piece in your local newspaper or social media. Speak at your place of worship or a local school about the rule of law.

And to do this, we also have to preserve the reputations of all lawyers, because publicity about one lawyer who has crossed the line harms all of us. By all means defend your clients’ interests, but do so in a way that respects the ethics and morality that we expect of one another. The law does not give us an excuse to turn a blind eye to what we know is right or wrong. In this respect, we will soon announce an important project to explore the proper ethical rules for lawyers in light of the disclosures of the Panama Papers, and also how government should properly fight corruption without infringing on the attorney-client privilege and professional secrecy that are vital to our serving our clients.

I have had the privilege and the honor the last two years to represent the IBA and all of you in fighting for these principles. I thank you for that opportunity; it has been a remarkable and memorable time in my life.

John F Kennedy famously said, “For those to whom much is given, much is required.” The late great Muhammad Ali stated succinctly, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”

After this ceremony, we will celebrate at the Museum of the American Indian. Native Americans tell the following legend about human nature. A chief is speaking to a young child. He tells the child that in him, as in every person, there are two wolves fighting with each other, one good and one bad. The child asks which one will win. The chief answers, “Whichever one you feed.”

I ask that each one of you feed your good wolf to help us fulfill our role as protectors of democracy and of the rule of law.

Thank you.

David W Rivkin
IBA President