Nancy Ward (seated, on the left) during the closing keynote at the WJF IV
Late in the afternoon on Tuesday, July 9, the first full day of World Justice Forum IV, Convene sat down with the World Justice Project’s Nancy Ward in a large, out-of-the-way space on the ground floor of the World Forum that her team had set up as a media room.
How’s it going so far?
Well, the energy’s been great here. What’s been interesting for me is to watch how people come in. They don’t know anyone. They get to know people. They get the energy. They get excited about the material and how that plays out over time throughout the conference.
Have there been any surprises or last-minute challenges?
The biggest challenge for us for this conference in general is visas, so we have a lot of last-minute surprises about who made it and who didn’t based on whether the visas were issued. I have a team of people from Malawi, an official delegation. We had everything precisely arranged. And then the [visa-processing] systems broke in South Africa, and so they were stranded in Pretoria all weekend. They arrived this morning at about 10 a.m., sleepy, and they know each other very well now. [Laughs.] Similarly, we had a delegation come from Myanmar. We weren’t sure whether they were going to be able to get here with all of the travel. I think those individual travel successes end up being the biggest surprises and the most fun for us, because we’re just delighted that they made it.
Do you have a sense yet of how your attendees are responding to your programming?
We’re trying to generate a better understanding of the rule of law, and I’ve heard several aha moments where people think, well, I hadn’t really thought about it that way. That to me is the most interesting comment that anyone could have here. We want to increase that understanding. We want to generate programs, and in fact, as we speak, they’re actually on the move now to the [Justice Incubator Working Sessions,] where they’re going to be generating programs.
Do you ever get used to the fact that you have U.S. Supreme Court justices and the president of the International Criminal Court and other high-level dignitaries participating in your conference?
I’m grateful and I’m awed and I’m honored, and I’m just as honored to be in the presence of a human-rights lawyer in Zimbabwe who’s fighting with her life for the freedom of regular people in Zimbabwe. Or to be around Roy Prosterman, who is from an organization called Landesa that’s literally helped 40 million people gain access to ownership of their property rights. Certainly our Supreme Court justices are leaders in the field and leading lights globally, but what’s really special about this event is that we have another 400 to 500 stories just like that.