Rule of law reform and force-growing orchids in permafrost on Svarlbard
In many developing countries today, detainees are routinely tortured for confessions, sexual favours are extracted from female suspects, and bribes are regularly demanded by corrupt judges, prosecutors and police. Furthermore, the judiciaries of such countries are often highly dependent on and, therefore, inappropriately influenced by government authorities and political parties, frequently advancing the interests of the ruling elite, instead of protecting individual rights and freedoms and promoting access to justice. Exacerbating the problem of lack of independence and endemic corruption and violence, is the fact that justice sectors in such countries are entrenched and resistant to change.
Thus, despite the best of intentions, copious amounts of money (in 2009 alone, according to OECD data, $2.6 billion was spent on judicial and legal reform by the OECD's Development Assistance Committee) and, seemingly, the best advice available, top-down, rule of law building by prominent players in the field - such as the World Bank, the IMF, the regional banks and USAID – has seldom produced stable democracy, long-term economic growth and the rule of law. All too often, rule of law reform smacks of trying to force-grow orchids in permafrost on Svarlbard. Without the right ambient conditions it simply will not work.
“Despite massive ongoing investment in both judicial reform and evaluative endeavours, we remain unable to demonstrate success,” writes a specialist in judicial and legal reform, Dr, Livingston Armytage, in his book titled 'Reforming Justice – A Journey to Fairness in Asia'. "Deep down we do not know what we are doing," he quotes a rule-of-law practitioner as saying.
Frank Richardson's address to the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights in Olso, can be found here.
Rule of Law & Human Rights