To what extent can the ‘rule of law’ be established through deliberate interventions (domestic or international)? (Please look for evaluations of explicit rule-of-law interventions or significant domestic change processes, and see what evidence there is and how they have been successful).
There is a lack of systematic evidence on whether and how the ‘rule of law’1 can be established through domestic or international interventions. Sage and Woolcock (2007) note a consensus among experts that rule of law reforms lack a sound theoretical and empirical basis. There is also limited literature on the relationship between domestic change processes and rule of law interventions. On-going initiatives to study the impact of legal empowerment and justice for the poor approaches may start to address this evidence gap.
This study reviews a selection of the recent (or seminal) evaluations of
international interventions, and identifies the following key findings.
- Many evaluations on different types of rule of law reform programmes
have found disappointing, limited or no impact on the establishment of
rule of law by international interventions across donors, countries
and sectors. Some evaluations have also found positive examples of
- The same issues with the design and implementation of international
rule of law interventions are reported across donors, countries and
sectors. A common criticism is that rule of law reform does not take
into account the importance of domestic political commitment to
support the reforms.
- Some innovative interventions and tools are identified as successful
(at least in process and output terms). Examples include the use of
paralegals; the lead or contributory role of NGOs, grassroots
organisations or other community-based groups; the use of low-tech
comic strips and easily available printed material to disseminate
legal information; the use of qualified national consultants to
develop the advisory work (and not just to gather and process data);
and the integration of rule of law and social accountability
- A number of evaluations point out that short-term interventions are
unlikely to lead to sustainable establishment of rule of law.
- Some also point out that investment in the monitoring and evaluation
of results is needed.
This report is organised in two sections: the first summarises the
limitations of the evidence and the second provides examples of
evaluations and reviews on interventions to support rule of law. The
examples include (a) literature reviews; (b) evaluations of aid agency
interventions; and (c) other country/thematic case studies.
Carter, B. Evidence on establishment of the &#8216;rule of law&#8217; through deliberate interventions (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 15 pp.