The largest lawyers’ group in the United States is developing a nation-by-nation comparison of which citizens can trust their government to act fairly and which governments fall short.
The idea, said American Bar Association president William Neukom, is to have “pesky facts provide the foundation to make informed decisions” by governments wanting to do better, rights groups considering where to intervene, and businesses deciding where to invest.
The first results from the ABA’s Rule of Law Index, released Friday, show that Americans and citizens of other more economically developed countries in the study place greater faith in their legal systems, suffer less police abuse and have more access to information than people in developing countries.
In their first round of work, researchers looked at only a few factors in just six countries and conducted random surveys only in each nation’s largest city. The other countries are: Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Spain and Sweden.
In Argentina and Colombia, citizens said that bribery and civil disobedience are more effective than the legal system in fighting an unwanted development project. They also reported more abuse by police.
The database is being built in four broad areas:
_Are governments accountable under the law?
_Are laws clear, well-understood and protective of fundamental rights?
_Is the system for enacting and enforcing laws accessible and fair?
_Are laws upheld fairly through a system of independent administrators, lawyers and judges?
Neukom, the former top lawyer for Microsoft, said the index will rate almost everywhere in the world within the next few years and revisit countries to track changes.
Next up are Nigeria and Tanzania, he said.