Evidence on ‘rule of law’ aid initiatives (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1008)

This report reviews the contribution of rule of law to development and poverty reduction, with evidence from aid initiatives

Abstract

Query

Does the rule of law boost development and reduce poverty? Provide evidence from successful aid initiatives.

Key findings

This report reviews the contribution of rule of law to development and poverty reduction, with evidence from aid initiatives. The first section provides a brief overview of the evidence base on the links between rule of law and development and poverty reduction. The second looks at evidence from successful aid initiatives, focusing on how interventions have contributed to rule of law and why they have been successful. Policing interventions are highlighted as a specific sub-area of interest in the third section.

Links found between rule of law and development and poverty reduction:

  • Causal relationships between rule of law and development are not clear; the most recent literature suggests this relationship is complex and unknown.
  • It is critical to engage with local processes and/or gain local buy-in. In some cases this includes supporting informal and customary institutions.
  • Property rights and the enforcement of contracts are often cited as necessary for an enabling business environment.
  • A gender focus is imperative, as women are often discriminated against in the legal system.

Aid initiatives contributing to rule of law:

  • Incremental, ‘good-enough’ approaches appear to work best, especially where they build on local understandings of rule of law and existing institutions.
  • Legal empowerment and enabling poor people’s access to law is as important as strengthening the institutions themselves.
  • Successful interventions are often capacity-building.
  • Rural outreach and access to justice programmes have also been successful.

Policing:

  • Capacity-building is the most successful approach, but there is no clear evidence on how interventions to improve police forces affect development outcomes.
  • Crime, violence and the absence of security are suggested as important constraints on economic growth and as drivers of poverty.

Citation

Browne, E. Evidence on ‘rule of law’ aid initiatives (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1008). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 12 pp.

Evidence on ‘rule of law’ aid initiatives (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1008)

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