The international legal community needs to make “lawlessness” a top priority, said human rights scholar Samantha Power ’99 during a speech at Celebration 55: The Women’s Leadership Summit at Harvard Law School.
“Millions, if not billions of people in the world are living in fear,” said Power, the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. “Police all over the world are not tools of rights enforcement, but they are instruments of corruption and abuse. Judicial systems are law breakers and not law makers.”
Power said that democracy cannot succeed without proper legal enforcement. Putting all resources towards holding elections in legally insecure places without building the proper legal framework does not work. When elections are held in lawless places, “extreme elements win because people vote for people with guns who might be able to offer them security,” she said.
Power also stressed that economic development depends on a strong legal foundation. Investors building business in developing countries currently embed work-arounds for security concerns. This practice is inefficient, and instead, “we should be investing in law,” she said.
Prior to Power’s remarks, Rita Hauser ’58 was presented with the Celebration Award in recognition of her contributions to the legal profession, and more broadly to public welfare.
In accepting the award, Hauser spoke about her interest in human rights, which began while she was a student and research assistant for Dean Roscoe Pound. She went on to discuss aspects of her career, including being appointed to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights by President Nixon. At the time, the U.S. had not passed the genocide convention, and Hauser took up that cause, ultimately urging Congress to ratify the policy.
Previous recipients of the Celebration Award include Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 and former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder ’64.