Justice Without the Rule of Law? The Challenge of Rights-Based Industrial Relations in Contemporary Cambodia

28 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2009 Last revised: 6 May 2015

See all articles by Daniel Adler

Daniel Adler

BA, LLB

Michael Woolcock

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG); Harvard University - Kennedy School of Government; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: August 8, 2009

Abstract

A significant proportion of the world’s work is done in contexts where the rule of law is absent or severely lacking. This paper describes one such context - that of contemporary Cambodia. Based on a literature review and interviews with key informants the authors find that there are opportunities to embed labor markets in regulatory frameworks, even at the periphery of the global economy. In such contexts, however, it is suggested that orthodox models of legal and judicial reform, which focus on drafting better laws and building capacity in judicial and administrative institutions for their enforcement, may not be the most effective way forward. Rather, the Cambodian experience suggests that the following were crucial in moving towards better protection of workers' rights: 1. Understanding the limitations of law as an instrument for attainment of rights absent independent and accessible judicial institutions; 2. Confronting the barriers to the establishment of such institutions (and being open to alternative strategies); 3. Recalling that law can have a powerful normative force, even without direct enforcement; 4. Engaging with the way in which rights are attained through processes of social contest; and 5. Supporting institutional forums for such contests to be played out in ways which maximize the potential for the disadvantaged to take part and tap in to the legitimating power of the law. Even adopting these strategies, however, it is noted that results have been uneven. In particular the poorest and most vulnerable workers are observed to have difficulty in extracting responsiveness from the sorts of systems described.

Keywords: Cambodia, Law, Development, Labor

JEL Classification: K31, N4

Suggested Citation

Adler, Daniel and Woolcock, Michael, Justice Without the Rule of Law? The Challenge of Rights-Based Industrial Relations in Contemporary Cambodia (August 8, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1445687 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1445687

Michael Woolcock

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
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Washington, DC 20433
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202-473-9258 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://econ.worldbank.org/staff/mwoolcock

Harvard University - Kennedy School of Government ( email )

Littauer-G-11G
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-0911 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://ksgfaculty.harvard.edu/michael_woolcock

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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