The UN and the Global Legal Information Network

Article excerpt

The rule of law is essential to civilized society. The Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) is engaged in making the law more accessible to everyone, which is an important step in the process of enhancing the rule of law.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The GLIN database (www.glin.gov) contains legal materials of individual jurisdictions, specifically statutes, judicial decisions, legal literature and legislative records. Its goal is to create a digital repository of all jurisdictional laws and related materials, including those of regional and major international organizations. While numerous national and regional legal databases that serve primarily local uses have been developed by other organizations, GLIN, on the other hand, is designed to enable international access and comparative legal research based on a common search method. Such a database has the potential of becoming a powerful research instrument and one that could influence legal systems worldwide.

GLIN was originally developed as a tool to support the research and reference needs of the United States Congress. However, it was decided that the database would be equally useful for legislators and legal researchers around the world and therefore was opened up for global membership. In 2001, the GLIN Foundation was established to support the needs and further the goals of the Network, whose data can now be accessed free of charge by anyone via the Internet. However, a GLIN member still has the option to allow access to other members only; but, in keeping with the principle that Governments should provide free and open access to their laws, full access to everyone is encouraged.

A major system upgrade implemented in February 2005 enables various search capabilities, for example through a "Google-type" interface or by using specific GLIN fields, such as jurisdiction, subject, date, type of legal instrument, or a combination of these elements. One of the Network's most unique features is the thesaurus-a dedicated list of subject terms used to index all records in GLIN. Legal analysts from member nations are trained to apply these terms so that researchers can locate an equivalent legal concept applicable to their jurisdictions. The search interface is available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

GLIN Central also hosts ongoing training sessions in Washington, D.C., and is working on the development of a distance-learning programme to facilitate training for members who may not be able to travel. Regional training efforts have also been undertaken. In June 2005, a workshop sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) was held in Curitiba, Brazil, which brought together members from MERCOSUR countries and representatives from GLIN Central and Costa Rica.

GLIN is a cooperative effort, with members having an equal stake in running it. The United States Law Library of Congress, which initiated the Network, continues to provide advice and support. Rubens Medina, Law Librarian of Congress, is Chair of the GLIN Executive Council, and Janice Hyde is Network Program Officer. …