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Key Text Achievements in Building and Maintaining the Rule of Law: MSI’s Studies in LAC, E&E, AFR, and ANE

Author: Management Systems International (MSI) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Date: 2002
Size: 202 pages (1.09 MB)

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The US Agency for International Development (USAID) implements programmes to develop the rule of law and assist the justice sector in more than 50 countries. Over the past two decades, its experience in the sector has grown, and its law and justice activities have expanded to all regions of operation. This paper takes a long-term view of USAID rule of law programmes and offers a collection of achievements linked to them.

In the mid-1980s, USAID shifted its focus to trade, investment and private-sector development. The agency quickly realised that, in many countries, legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks were acting as barriers to foreign and domestic investment. At the same time, support for democracy building led to an increase in justice-strengthening activities, mainly targeted at human rights abuses in Latin America. Since then, USAID has expanded its role in the rule of law area. Its programmes have come under scrutiny and their efficacy has sometimes been questioned. However, this paper aims to show that USAID has made significant contributions to the major transformations that have taken place in rule of law and justice practices worldwide.

The study gives both regional and country overviews of USAID rule of law programmes. The agency has been most active in Latin America and Eastern Europe. In Africa and Asia/the Near East, there has been less opportunity and funding, but the number and size of programmes is growing. Each region is at a different stage of progress:

  • Latin America and the Caribbean has undergone major political change in the past 20 years. Most countries now have elected governments, together with economic liberalisation and greater civilian participation.
  • In Eastern Europe, the fall of the Berlin Wall led to the introduction of democracy and free market economies. Real progress has been made, but the transformation has proved longer and more difficult than expected.
  • In the late 1980s, many African countries experienced a transition towards democratic rule, but in some, it was short-lived. Reform has been patchy and complicated by conflict.
  • The report’s five country examples from Asia/the Near East were all dominated by authoritarian regimes in the last century. They have received support to develop the rule of law, but political commitment has been mixed.

Together with local partners, USAID commonly offers assistance with: law reform, constitutional drafting, legal training, court rebuilding and administration, the development of alternative dispute mechanisms and support for civil society groups. However, the extent and mix of its programmes has varied widely according to country circumstances:

  • In Latin America, the judiciary’s independence has been strengthened, allowing it to challenge wrongdoing by the powerful. Disadvantaged groups have gained more access to justice, and corruption has declined.
  • In Eastern Europe, the main task has been to develop legal frameworks to establish and protect rights. USAID has helped draft constitutions and the laws required for democratic government and a free market economy.
  • In Africa, the focus has been on drafting new and better legal frameworks, developing human resources and infrastructure, and increasing access to justice. Following the Rwandan genocide, the judiciary has been rebuilt.
  • In Asia/the Near East, programmes have helped bolster the rule of law and rebuild courts. The agency has targeted corruption and the impact of poverty, and has worked with civil society where political will was weak.

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Source: U.S. Agency for International Development, 2002, 'Achievements in Building and Maintaining the Rule of Law: MSI’s Studies in LAC, E&E, AFR, and ANE', Office of Democracy and Governance Occasional Papers Series, USAID, Washington D.C.
Author: United States Agency for International Development - Democracy and Governance (USAID),