Tang Prize recipients show rule of law principles can be achieved

Yeh Jiunn-rong (standing), a professor at National Taiwan University and chair of the Tang Prize's selection committee for the rule of law.

TAIPEI (CNA) — Three overseas nongovernmental organizations that have won the 2020 Tang Prize for their significant contributions to the rule of law show that the principle can be achieved in more challenging areas, the prize’s selection committee said Sunday.

The three NGOs that won the 2020 Tang Prize for the rule of law were the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), Colombia-based Dejusticia: The Center for Law, Justice and Society, and Lebanon-based The Legal Agenda.

“Coming from Taiwan, we feel your pain when you are working on social transformation,” said Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), a professor at National Taiwan University and chair of the Tang Prize’s selection committee for the rule of law, at a press conference in Taipei to unveil the prize recipients.

The organizations, which have been working very hard in difficult social contexts, marks a significant recognition that the rule of law can be achieved not only in the north and also in the global south, where the social, political and economics are difficult, Yeh said.

The latest prize recipients reflect that the realization of the rule of law is not only awarded to government officials, judges and others in power, but also to people who work hard at the grassroots level, Yeh said.

“Together they have tried to do something impossible and they have made it,” Yeh said. “They continue to work for it by combining practice and academic scholarship.”

All three organizations make use of their scholarly knowledge by helping society and engaging in public debate, advocacy and litigation, Yeh said.

“We are in a situation where people are not all equal in reality. There are disadvantaged groups of people in society,” Yeh went on, noting that inequality of society is an inconvenient truth people have to face, but luckily there are those organizations and their contributions that can help.

Established in 1992, BELA is dedicated to promoting environmental justice and developing sound environmental jurisprudence in Bangladesh, the committee said in a statement.

The NGO promotes the rule of law and environmental justice through public interest litigation, advocacy, research and publication, as well as capacity-building for those working in the public sector and civil society, the committee said.

Also sharing the prize is the Colombia-based research and advocacy organization Dejusticia: The Center for Law, Justice and Society, which was founded in 2005 and has made important contributions to the rule of law through its relentless campaigns, the committee said.

The organization aims to strengthen the rule of law through litigation, notably filing and winning landmark cases on such sensitive issues as discrimination such as race and gender, indigenous peoples’ rights, the rights of refugees, transitional justice and environmental degradation, according to the committee.

The Legal Agenda, established in 2009, has strengthened judicial independence and the rule of law in Lebanon through a multidisciplinary approach, the committee said.

Its main activities include monitoring the functions of the judiciary, advocating legislative change and promoting a stronger societal fabric in support of judicial independence, the committee added.

“Lastly, I will say they are seen, particularly in these difficult times,” Yeh said. “They are seen by the Tang Prize, seen by Taiwan and now throughout the world because of this (Tang Prize).”

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