From July 9-11th, the CEELI Institute was delighted to host colleagues, board members, donors, alumni, and friends from around the world at the Villa Grebovka in Prague for the Institute’s Annual Meeting. The Annual Meeting was at once a celebration of the Institute’s many proud achievements in the past twelve months and a forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

This year’s meeting brought together thought leaders from both the public and private sectors to continue the important work of developing effective strategies for support of international efforts aimed at supporting and advancing the rule of law. In particular, participants sought to address the unprecedented challenges that Europe and its environs are facing in implementing and sustaining the Rule of Law. The past year has seen a rise in anti-democratic political trends, repeated attacks on judicial independence and the role of the courts, harassment of lawyers, journalists, and civil society actors, and restrictions on the operation of the press in Europe and around the globe. At this critical time, the Institute and its supporters remain committed to identifying strategies and tools that will be effective in responding to threats to democracy and the rule of law.

Our full-day session on July 10th included panel discussions, presentations, and program updates. In the morning, Tanya Lokshina, Russia Program Director at Human Rights Watch, Rodger Potocki, Senior Director, Europe, at the National Endowment for Democracy, Mykhailo Zhernakov, Director at the DeJuRe Foundation, and Marek Svoboda, Director of Programs at the CEELI Institute, led participants in a discussion about Assaults on Judicial Independence, Civil Society, and Rule of Law Reform in Europe. The Institute was then honored to welcome a delegation of young Palestinian and Israeli legal professionals to present on an ongoing initiative jointly led by the CEELI Institute and the Israeli Bar Association, which brings together a outstanding young lawyers from relevant communities in the Middle East to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role that international law can play in resolving it. Next, the group heard updates on various judicial training programs the CEELI Institute is leading around the world and on the Institute’s work on the Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe. In the afternoon, a second panel, comprised of Maryann Clifford, former Chief Ethics and Compliance Office at BP, Alexander Juden, Secretary and General Counsel at Schlumberger Ltd., Teresa Jenkins, Head of Rule of Law Development at LexisNexis, and Jennifer Gaspar, Director of Special Programs at the CEELI Institute, shared their thoughts on The Role of Business in Supporting the Rule of Law. After a productive day of discussion, it was apparent to all that it is crucial–now more than ever–for civil society and the NGO community to leverage partnerships with businesses and the corporate world in order to pursue shared interests in creating law-based societies. On July 11th, the Institute’s Management and Supervisory boards had a successful joint meeting, and laid the groundwork for a number of new projects and strategic objectives.

The Annual Meeting was also an opportunity to welcome colleagues in a congenial setting. At our opening barbeque dinner on the Villa’s back terrace, guests were able to enjoy live music, great weather, and exquisite views of Prague, making it truly an evening to remember.

The CEELI Institute staff were thrilled with the level of participation and quality of discussion, and wish to sincerely thank everyone who came to the Meeting and who continue to support the Institute and its mission.