Rethinking Justice Reform in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States: The Capacity of Development Agencies and Lessons from Liberia and Afghanistan

WORLD BANK LEGAL REVIEW: INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND GLOBAL LEGAL GOVERNANCE, Vol. 3, Cisse, Bradlow, Kingsbury, eds., World Bank, 2011

24 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2011 Last revised: 4 May 2015

See all articles by Deval Desai

Deval Desai

University of London, School of Oriental & African Studies - School of Law

Deborah Isser

World Bank - Law and Justice (LEGAL)

Michael Woolcock

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

Date Written: November 21, 2011

Abstract

Over the last four decades, donor-driven justice reform efforts have largely followed two parallel paradigms: one primarily concerned with promoting development and economic growth, the other centered on state-building and the consolidation of peace in countries emerging from violent conflict. These paradigms have increasingly converged in recent years, with development actors embracing some of the concepts underpinning justice aspects of state building, as articulated in the World Development Report 2011 (on conflict and security). As the WDR 2011 correctly recognizes, however, these operational models share a powerful conviction – reinforced by broader organizational imperatives promoting the rapid dissemination and scale-up of universal ‘best practices’ – that reform of justice institutions is optimally achieved by replicating structures deemed successful elsewhere. These models also face the same conundrum: on the one hand, a powerful North/South, left/right consensus that justice (or ‘the rule of law’) is vital in its own right and to achieving key development objectives, and yet, on the other, an operational track record demonstrating that much remains to be learned. We examine the dual analytical dynamics underpinning these models, and argue that, in order to avoid mutual reinforcement of their respective weaknesses, the time is ripe to re-conceptualize approaches to justice reform in fragile and conflict-affected states, and to explore their implications for alternative operational strategies. Building on the remarks of Liberia’s Minister of Justice Christiana Tah and Afghanistan’s Chief Justice Azimi at the World Bank’s Law, Justice and Development forum in November 2010, we argue that enhancing the efficacy of these initiatives requires an alternative theory of change, a long-term commitment to investing in research to understand the idiosyncrasies of local contexts, and a far more nuanced and calibrated approach to building locally legitimate justice institutions capable of mitigating the societal stresses that feed cycles of conflict.

Keywords: fragility, conflict, justice, rule of law, World Development Report 2011, Afghanistan, Liberia

JEL Classification: F35, K33, O19

Suggested Citation

Desai, Deval and Isser, Deborah and Woolcock, Michael, Rethinking Justice Reform in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States: The Capacity of Development Agencies and Lessons from Liberia and Afghanistan (November 21, 2011). WORLD BANK LEGAL REVIEW: INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND GLOBAL LEGAL GOVERNANCE, Vol. 3, Cisse, Bradlow, Kingsbury, eds., World Bank, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1962962

Deval Desai (Contact Author)

University of London, School of Oriental & African Studies - School of Law ( email )

London, WC1H 0XG
United Kingdom

Deborah Isser

World Bank - Law and Justice (LEGAL) ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Michael Woolcock

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

1818 H. Street, N.W.
Mailstop MC3-306
Washington, DC 20433
United States
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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