Ghana in dimming global rule of law

BY: Prosper Andre Batinge
Ghana's 2021 Rule of Law Ranking copy
Ghana's 2021 Rule of Law Ranking copy

On October 14, 2021, the World Justice Project (WJP) unveiled its 2021 Rule of Law Index. Rule of Law practitioners and researchers around the world followed the launch virtually with renewed enthusiasm.

Overall, and following griming trends from four years ago, the Rule of Law keeps dimming globally as countries, including Ghana, continue to slide in upholding the various facets of the Rule of Law. A fading Rule of Law is a bad omen for our search for flourishing lives and societies.

The WJP Index has been measuring the Rule of Law in select countries across the world annually since its inception in 2008. The WJP Index is, arguably, the most reliable source of Rule of Law performance.

The WJP has improved and keeps bettering its assessment of the Rule of Law performance.

The WJP’s 2020 Report, for example, states that the WJP annual Indexes and Reports “are the products of intensive consultation and vetting with academics, practitioners, and community leaders from more than 100 countries and 17 professional disciplines.”

As well, according to last year’s report, “[t]he index is the world’s most comprehensive dataset of its kind and the only one to rely principally on primary data.”

The WJP Index’s latest report, the 2021 Index, is thus a reliable diagnosis of the health of our global and local Rule of Law.

Measures

The index measures various major core desiderata of the Rule of Law.

The index divides the Rule of Law core desiderata into various factors and various sub-factors and further into various sub-groups of the sub-factors: measuring how the law tempers power, both state and non-state; measuring how the law limits corruption, both government and corporate; measuring how the law holds norm breakers accountable, both powerful and powerless; measuring how the law is accessible to citizens, both in the cities and rural areas; measuring how the law ensures equality for citizens, both men and women.

In addition, the index measures various minor core desiderata of the Rule of Law: measuring how the law initiates and consolidates democracy and good governance in both developed and developing countries; measuring how the law creates a viable business environment in both wealthy and emerging economies; measuring how the law goads lawmakers into promulgating laws that are just, clear, publicised, and stable in both tested democracies and emerging democracies; measuring how the law ensures that the judiciary applies the law evenly for both powerful and pauper; measuring how the law secures property and contracts for both seller and buyer; measuring how the law curtails crime and civil conflict in both polished neighbourhoods and forsaken slums; measuring how the law preserves civil justice and civil space for both the citizen of means and the indigent; measuring how the law facilitates the availability of relevant information and data for citizens from both public and private institutions.

Also, and of course, the Index measures how the law secures and guarantees the human rights and dignity of citizens: measuring how the law promotes, among these human rights, the right to life, the right to security of the person, the right to due process of law, the rights and safeguards of the accused person as well as the guarantee of fundamental freedoms, among them, the freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of belief and religion, the freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, the freedom of assembly and association, and the freedom from forced labor.

The index is thus almost inexhaustive, measuring these and much, much more of the multifaceted core desiderata of the Rule of Law that are instrumental to a flourishing life in a flourishing polis.

The index is thus a true compass of whether a society is moving towards a good and prosperous life or off the rails of its journey towards a good and desirable society.

Findings

The WJP’s newest Index has seen improvement in both the scope and quality of its evaluation of how countries are performing in upholding the Rule of Law—or their lack thereof.

Eleven new countries were added to the 2021 Index, totalling 139 countries and jurisdictions.

The 2021 Index, as were the case of previous ones, essentially measures the experiences and perception of the public on issues related to the Rule of Law as enumerated above.

It solicited the views and experiences of both ordinary citizens covering over 138,000 household surveys, and experts, taking the views of over 4,200 lawyers and specialists.

The index’s score ranges from zero to one, with zero being the weakest and one the strongest. The 2021 Index covered the period between October 2020 and May 2021.

The index paints a grim picture, showing “that more countries declined than improved in overall rule of law performance for the fourth consecutive year.” Worse is the finding that these “declines were widespread and seen in all corners of the world.”

The index has good news for few countries.

Topping the Rule of Law chart this year are Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

However, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Mongolia were the most improved over the past year.

The COVID-19 pandemic is partly responsible for the poor Rule of Law showing in this past year, seen more in the areas of constraining government’s powers, civic space, delayed justice, and discrimination.
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But the index is quick to observe, a point that various speakers at this year’s launch reiterated, that COVID-19 alone is not to blame for this past year’s Rule of Law grim showing since previous indexes of four years ago started flagging a global Rule of Law slowly sliding into the red zone.

State

Ghana, the model of diffusion effects in matters of the Rule of Law and like social virtues in sub-Saharan Africa, failed to edify the rest of the continent in the Index’s latest scores and, in fact, in previous indexes of the most recent years.

Out of the 33 countries sampled, Ghana took the seventh position with a raw score of 0.55, coming just below Senegal and just above Malawi, indicating a decline by a point from last year’s Index.

Rwanda, Namibia, and Mauritius are the top Rule of Law models in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ghana’s latest Rule of Law poor showing is a far departure from its Rule of Law record since the WJP started compiling the index in 2008.

The 2017/2018 Index, for example, put Ghana at the top, outperforming every country on the continent.

This bodes ill for Ghana (and for the world). While the Rule of Law may not be a sufficient condition for development, it is a necessary catalyst for development.

If this year’s index is anything to go by—and it is a lot to go by—, Ghana is not properly on its development rail.

The latest index is yet another call to cure our ailing Ruel of Law, both home and abroad.

The writer is an international ­­­attorney/Doctor of the Juridical Science (SJD) student, Fordham Law School, NY, USA.