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ONU to Establish Afghan LLM Program

Nov 17, 2015

The Ohio Northern University Center for Democratic Governance and Rule of Law and the College of Law’s Master of Laws (LL.M.) program will establish an Advanced Legal Education Program for Afghan Lawyers under a $2.9 million cooperative agreement with the United States State Department and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

This program of instruction will target candidates who are not being reached by other international legal education programs. It will prepare the 30 participants to return to Afghanistan with both a language and a legal skillset that will enable them to take leadership roles in their country’s rule of law development. The integrated 18-month program consists of intensive English-language instruction and a tailored LL.M. and certificate program for 10 lawyers. The curriculum will be centered on ONU’s internationally recognized LL.M. in Democratic Governance and Rule of Law program.

ONU President Daniel DiBiasio said, “This is an exciting opportunity that recognizes the continuing contribution the University is making to educate young leaders committed to effecting change around the world. The College of Law and the Center for Democratic Governance and Rule of Law are making a mark promoting the rule of law that resonates far beyond Ada and Ohio.”

Howard Fenton, professor of law and director of the Center for Democratic Governance and Rule of Law, said, “Afghanistan’s struggle to establish and sustain a society based in rule of law continues alongside its efforts to establish a system of stable governance. Talented and reform-minded lawyers are essential to this process and must be supported with an appropriate program of study that will expose them to Western legal models, including approaches to legal education that expand their perspective and provide them with new skills in both legal content and process. This is, of course, an incremental process, and among the barriers to expanding these opportunities is the lack of English-language skills among many of the talented Afghan lawyers and the often unfocused or irrelevant course of instruction provided in traditional programs.”

“ONU is uniquely positioned to successfully implement this program,” Fenton continued. “The College of Law initiated an LL.M. in Democratic Governance and Rule of Law program in fall 2006 with a grant from the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State. This unique program included a curriculum specifically designed for lawyers from transitional and post-conflict countries and a variety of experiential-learning opportunities to introduce the students to the legal and governance institutions and practices of the United States. Since that time, the ONU program has graduated more than 100 students from more than 33 countries.”

 In 2011 the LL.M. program welcomed its first two Afghan lawyers; it currently has four enrolled in the 2016 graduating class. The program has graduated 15 Afghan attorneys, including six women. In 2012, the University created the Center for Democratic Governance and Rule of Law to build on the success and experience of the LL.M. program and its faculty to secure opportunities for promoting legal and governance reforms in transitional states beyond its LL.M. program.