In a new generation of global challenges — including instability in finance and banking, poverty and political disenfranchisement, and climate change — promoting the rule of law is increasingly important, said U.S. Senator John F. Kerry at a talk Nov. 2 at The University of Texas at Austin.
During his presentation, entitled “The Rule of Law in World Affairs,” Kerry discussed the importance of ending partisan infighting in Washington, D.C., and promoting the rule of law worldwide as a way to work effectively with the unprecedented global challenges we currently face.
“Promoting the rule of law is not mushy multilateralism,” Kerry said. “It amplifies America’s voice and it extends our reach.”
Kerry shared his view that the rule of law will become increasingly important because our ever-expanding global interconnectedness brings with it problems no single nation can solve alone. Can we work together to meet the challenges of our age, he asked, or will we take refuge in isolationism?
To illustrate this point, Kerry spoke in detail about the Law of the Sea Convention, an international agreement that establishes international guidelines regarding the use of marine resources. In describing the long and unhappy history of attempts to get this treaty ratified, Kerry explained how ideological extremism threatens our real interests — economic, political, and military — and energy security.
This is a treaty, he said, that is broadly supported by military, political, and business interests because it will promote and expand international business interests: the rest of the world is divvying up access to these resources, and the United States is not even at the table. Businesses are hesitant to make the large capital investments needed without the protections afforded by the treaty. But ratification has been held up by a few ideologues.
“Working through global institutions doesn’t tie our hands — it gives greater strength and legitimacy to our purposes and facilitates consensus on transnational threats and challenges,” he said.
Ward Farnsworth, dean of the School of Law, greeted the audience and introduced the Honorable James A. Baker III, 64th United States Secretary of State, honorary chair of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, and a 1957 University of Texas School of Law graduate. Secretary Baker welcomed, in the spirit of bipartisanship, Senator Kerry to Texas and to The University of Texas at Austin.
Following his remarks, Kerry took questions from the audience. He was asked about next steps: how can we break the partisan divide?
Kerry responded by suggesting that a reconsideration of filibuster rules might be a step in the right direction, as the way they are currently written makes it too easy for the few to hold up the work of the many. He stressed that it’s important to find the right balance, however, because it can be an important protection.
But the biggest issue is to get money out of politics. Kerry said he believes Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was wrongly decided, but that he was optimistic that there is movement in the country to reverse that decision.
The lecture was presented under the auspices of the Law School’s James A. Baker III Chair in the Rule of Law in World Affairs, and was sponsored by the School of Law and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.