Building rule of law in Yemen: a need for more focus on informal justice processes

Building rule of law in Yemen: a need for more focus on informal justice processes 22 April 2010

What are the major rule of law deficiencies in Yemen? What should be the focus of donors? A HiiL Quick Scan learned that informal justice is far more relevant for Yemenis than the formal system. The results suggest that donors may have to focus more on strengthening what seems to work for the population and build from that basis.

In Yemen the vast majority of disputes (more than 80%) are resolved through informal justice mechanisms, which vary from mediation to arbitration. However, almost all rule of law and justice sector assistance is focused on the formal justice sector in the cities, despite the importance of informal justice and tribal law to most ordinary Yemenis, especially outside the cities. This is a serious mismatch, which may be caused by the data that donors have available.

The past decade has witnessed a proliferation of indicators and measurement systems for rule of law and relevant related fields. Together they provide for a reasonable clear picture of the state of the formal justice system and rule of law in Yemen, which is below par. Very little can be said, however, about informal justice mechanisms, because the measurement instruments contain very little, if any, indicators for this field. Measuring the degree of access to both formal and informal justice mechanisms through HiiL’s assessment tool is, therefore, a first priority. This is the outcome of a Country Quick Scan that was carried out by HiiL in close cooperation with its experts of the Hague Rule of Law Network upon the request of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Quick Scan also warns policy-makers that results generated by indicators are in themselves an insufficient basis for policy decisions or decisions to allocate funds, in part because indicators say nothing about causes. More research should therefore be conducted on underlying causes for rule of law deficiencies.

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