International and Comparative Law

The Rule of Law in Africa and Beyond:

Challenges from Poverty, Powerlessness, Discrimination, and Misinformation

A part of the Dean Robert G. Storey Rule of Law Lecture Series


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The interpretation of the term “Rule of Law” often varies in different countries, communities, and cultures. At its most basic, the rule of law refers to a legal system that provides equality under the law, transparent laws, an independent and fair judiciary, and access to legal remedies. Challenges to the establishment and development of the rule of law arise when people feel powerless, struggle with poverty and discrimination, and lack education. In addition, cultural norms can create challenges to equality and fair treatment, especially for females and minorities.

This session of the Storey Rule of Law Lecture Series will feature Hauwa Ibrahim, a lawyer, scholar, and 2005 laureate of the Sakharov Prize who has dedicated her career to protecting human rights, fighting for equality, promoting education and opportunities as a tool to combat poverty and extremism, and providing a voice to the voiceless.

This program will explore rule of law successes and challenges in Africa, focusing on problems caused by poverty, lack of opportunities, and powerlessness. In addition, we will discuss rule of law challenges caused by global communications and information networks that too often fail to guarantee freedom of expression and opinion.

Registration is complimentary as a service to our International community. Details for connecting to the recording will be sent shortly after you register. Please allow 1 business day to process your registration.

About the Speaker

Hauwa Ibrahim is a Nigerian-born human rights lawyer, scholar, 2005 laureate of the Sakharov Prize, and a 2000 alumnus of The Center for American and International Law’s Academy of American and International Law.

Born and raised in northern Nigeria, Ibrahim grew up in a poor family with a father who did not believe in the value of education for females. Despite this, she had a strong desire to continue her education beyond the primary level. With tenacity and persistence, Ibrahim gained admission to Jos University and eventually earned an LLB and a master’s in international law and diplomacy, a bachelor of law from Nigeria Law School, and a master of law in international studies at American University’s Washington College of Law.

Ibrahim’s early legal efforts focused on defending those who had had criminal charges brought against them in the Shariah courts, in particular women and children without resources for representation. One such case was that of Amina Lawal, who had been found guilty of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning even though she had not been represented by counsel. The court delayed carrying out the sentence for two years until Lawal’s daughter had been weaned.

Ibrahim and the Lawal’s legal team, which included representatives from several rights organizations, filed an appeal of the conviction. Although Ibrahim played an instrumental role in devising the defense strategy on appeal, she was not allowed to speak in court and had to pass notes to a junior male colleague to address the court. Eventually, the death sentence was overturned.

In 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan invited Ibrahim back to Nigeria to join efforts to rescue the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. In 2015, Ibrahim was also invited by His Royal Highness Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan to help refugees on empowerment and women issues. Through these experiences, Ibrahim began to focus on the power of mothers to influence their children and slow down or prevent their drift to violent extremism.

Ibrahim has also served as a member of the groundbreaking Global Information and Democracy Commission, a panel of 25 prominent people formed by Reporters without Borders in September 2018 to draft an International Declaration on Information and Democracy. The Declaration, a six-page document published on November 5, 2018, sets out democratic guarantees for the freedom, independence, pluralism, and reliability of information at a time when the public space has been globalized, digitalized, and destabilized.

Ibrahim is a supporter of education, which she believes is a way to empower women and the best defense for those facing the greatest deprivation. She serves as a consultant to many human rights and non-governmental organizations. She has been a Visiting Professor at Harvard University Divinity School, the University of Rome, Wellesley Center for Women, a World Fellow at Yale University, a Radcliffe fellow, and a fellow at both the Human Rights Program and the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard University. She is the President of The Peace Institute with offices in USA, Italy, and Nigeria. She is also the author of a bestselling book, Practicing Shariah Law: Seven Strategies for Achieving Justice in Shariah Courts.

The Dean Robert G. Storey Lecture Series

The Dean Robert G. Storey Lecture Series was created in honor of CAIL founder, Robert G. Storey, and in recognition of his commitment to the rule of law. Each Storey Lecture will focus on an issue of particular importance in a region of the world with an emphasis on its rule of law implications. Lawyers from around the world are invited to attend all lectures.

The past year has been unprecedented. The global disruption due to COVID-19, coupled with rising nationalism, has raised fundamental questions about the liberal international economic order and even the future of democracy as a desirable political end. For lawyers, the situation has raised fundamental questions about the future of the profession. Further, as rights have come under challenge, the traditional role of lawyers as protectors of rights and the leaders of key institutions essential to shaping legal systems is in question.

The Lectures will feature some of the world’s best lawyers who will address these and other related issues from a regional perspective.

Other Information

Press Policy

This webinar is held under the Chatham House Rule. Participants, including journalists, are free to use any information received, but comments may not be attributed to any speaker identified by name or affiliation.

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The Center for American and International Law does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other protected status in educational activities, scholarship programs or admissions.

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