Innovations in Rule of Law

Authored by Juan Carlos Botero, Ronald Janse, Sam Muller, and Christine S. Pratt, published in 2012

It is not all doom and gloom regarding the use and effectiveness of rule of law development assistance. There are actually things we have learned and things that seem to work well. They are featured in a report entitled “Innovations in Rule of Law”, published by HiiL and the World Justice Project.

Both within and outside the UN, there is skepticism about rule of law promotion at the national and international levels. Although justified in some respects, this attitude risks overlooking areas in the rule of law field where innovations have been made, important insights have been gained, and tangible successes, fragile or more robust, have been achieved in the past 5 to 10 years.

Focusing on these innovations is particularly timely and important as the UN General Assembly for the first time chose the topic of the rule of law for its meeting later in 2012. On 24 and 25 September the UN General Assembly will open with a heads of state meeting on the rule of law. Negotiations on an Outcome Document are currently under way. To support this process HiiL and the World Justice Project (WJP) have taken the initiative to prepare a report that highlights areas where significant progress has been made over the past 5 to 10 years, both in terms of insights and concrete innovations.

The first edition of the report was presented at an event held in New York on 26 June 2012, in partnership with the International Peace Institute. Adama Dieng, Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and leading rule of law advocate honoured the event with keynote speech in which set set out the significance of rule of law today.

The report singles success stories in five areas where there has been both significant learning (insights) and in which we see concrete innovations:

  1. Measuring rule of law
  2. The nexus between national and international law
  3. Legal empowerment and bottom-up approached to rule of law
  4. Informal justice
  5. Fragility, state building and rule of law

We can see from the report that most rule of law progress is not made around rule of law as such, but around a concrete problem – health care delivery, family issues, gender issues, land issues – for which rule of law is part of the solution. Five policy recommendations conclude the report:

  1. A lot of extra milage can be gained to empower justice actors – from judges and legislators to civil society organisations and business – with mechanisms that make justice more qualifiable and quantifiable
  2. Rule of law strategising should integrate the national and international perspective from the start
  3. We know a lot more about bottom-up justice innovation and we should use that knowledge to empower more people and organisations
  4. The IT and social media revolution of the last decade has created room for a new and more effective tools to deliver legal information to people. There are some very promising examples, and more investment in this field can achieve a lot
  5. Don’t deny the existence of informal justice; work with it