On Friday, March 7, Thomson Reuters sponsored of a panel discussion on the global rule of law as part of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum 2014 “Law and Business Day.” Sharon Sayles Belton, vice president of Community Relations and Government Affairs at Thomson Reuters, moderated the panel. Participants on the panel were Professor Jothie Rajah, Judge John R. Tunheim, Justice Wilhelmina Wright, and Keith Nelsen.

Global Rule of Law Panel

Panel participants, from left to right: Keith Nelsen, Jothie Rajah, Judge John Tunheim, and Justice Wilhelmina Wright

Sayles Belton kicked things off by asking Justice Wright what “rule of law” meant to her. “We decide cases based on constitutional principles in the Supreme Court, but our goal is to strive for stability and predictability in the law,” said Justice Wright. “It’s important our institutions are sound and consistent. That is the starting point for a rule of law.”

Judge Tunheim then spoke about how the rule of law differs abroad. He explained that the rule of law is a concept that is broadly understood but not consistently practiced around the world. “There are big challenges that relate to the rule of law on a global scale,” he said. “There is corruption, dealing with different religions, and the basic challenge of learning democracy.” He then went on to talk about his experience in helping to develop constitutions outside the U.S., specifically in Kosovo in 2007 and 2008. “The people of Kosovo had to deal with overcoming a period of crisis and violence and the horrors that went along with the wars of the 90s. So it was a bit of a challenge to help them figure out how to start a legal system. They required a set of laws, criminal defense lawyers, and modern technology such as telephones, computers and security systems. We as Americans can learn from these challenges as we never had to face them.”

Sharon Sayles Belton moderating

Sharon Sayles Belton moderating the panel discussion

Sayles Belton then asked Keith Nelsen, general counsel for Best Buy, about growing a business globally and how the rule of law has impacted business relations. Nelsen told the story of Best Buy’s attempt to break into various international markets back in the mid 2000s and the challenges they encountered in doing business in certain non-U.S. territories, particularly noting how different parties view contractual relationships as well as their local legal systems. “We learned a lot from this. I think in order to contribute as much as we can to the recognition of a global rule of law, we as a business community need to be leaders and set examples for how business can and should be conducted internationally. We need to respect the tribunals we are in and do whatever we can to support them, and be crystal clear we are going to honor contracts and avoid corruption or dealing with inappropriate third parties at every step of the journey.”