Criminal Justice: Security and Justice Thematic Paper
Author: Jake Sherman
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How can criminal justice be strengthened in countries at risk of violent conflict? This paper examines criminal justice sector reform, relating it to research on the causes of violence. It argues that rather than focusing exclusively on state institutions – or blindly rushing to support informal systems – reform must be based on an understanding of actual demand for justice services. Donors need to improve their understanding of local contexts, address funding gaps, and improve measurement of results and outcomes. Interventions should: 1) encompass a broader range of local justice requirements; 2) seek to incorporate existing links between state and informal sectors into legislation and procedures; and 3) counter organised- and cross-border crime through multi-sectoral interventions with long-term vision.
Strengthening the rule of law is widely regarded as a necessary precondition for sustainable peace, poverty alleviation and development. The law enforcement and criminal justice sector represents a critical source of stress in conflict-prone situations. This can be through omission – the inability to effectively tackle crime and violence – or commission or collusion.
Local, national, regional, and international actors have undertaken a range of justice interventions to address stresses leading to violence. Examples include the following:
- Short-term local measures such as initiating community policing, public-private partnerships, and extending police presence to under-served areas, and – regarding access to justice â€“reducing fees and allowing legal self-representation for certain cases.
- Short-term international efforts have generally either included support to local initiatives, or more direct assistance only possible in the context of peace operations. Principal tools have included support for executive policing, hybrid courts, legal system monitoring and the establishment of coordination mechanisms.
- Local efforts in the medium- to long-term have included reform of the national legal framework and decentralisation.
- Medium-term international efforts have often included technical assistance, which has insufficiently addressed the management capacity of justice institutions. It has also underemphasised the process of reform – for example, by focusing on revising past laws but not on developing indigenous law-making and oversight capacity.
- Transnational threats require regional and international responses, and illegal trafficking is a major obstacle to criminal justice reform in a variety of contexts. Standardised legal regimes are an important starting point for coordinated action.
Research by the World Bank and the Open Society Institute notes lack of clarity and agreement among donors on goals; top-down, supply-side, acontextual planning; lack of strategic prioritisation and sequencing; inattention to government commitment; insufficient coordination; failure to learn lessons; repetition of others' failures; avoidance of complexity in favour of expediency or visibility; and inadequate monitoring and evaluation. Key issues are:
- Understanding of local context: International engagement often misses the political and political economy dimensions of security and justice provision, and is overwhelmingly focusing on sector-specific technical experts.
- Funding gaps and imbalances: The criminal justice sector is chronically under-funded by donors, and sub-sectors even more so. Also, the types of reform pushed by donors have often left countries with unsustainable salary and equipment maintenance costs.
- Measuring results and outcomes: Early international interventions often demonstrate concrete, positive results, but are rarely sustained, without long-term results that matter to recipient populations. There is no agreed framework for measuring progress in the criminal justice reform.
Interventions need to consider public expectations and confidence in government actions. Further recommendations include the following:
- Encompass a broader range of local justice requirements, including mediation and conflict resolution, property and family dispute resolution.
- Seek to incorporate existing links between state and informal sectors into legislation and procedures, while reinforcing local accountability mechanisms and capabilities for problem-solving.
- Counter organised- and cross-border crime not just by strengthening criminal justice legislation and enforcement, but also through multi-sectoral interventions with long-term vision. These could include creating opportunities for civil society, promoting local accountability, transforming public space, and addressing disparities and at-risk youth.
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Sherman, J., 2010, 'Criminal Justice: Security and Justice Thematic Paper', World Development Report 2011 Background Paper, World Bank, Washington, DC
Organisation: World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/