Wednesday, December 30, 2009

World Bank Paper- Review of WB's Access to Justice Programs

Inspired by recent happenings in the 'Legal Empowerment of the Poor' movement, The World Bank, as part of its Justice and Development Working Paper Series, has published a review of its Access to Justice/Legal Empowerment practice- Access to Justice and Legal Empowerment: A Review of World Bank Practice by Vivek Maru, Counsel, Justice Reform Practice Group, The World Bank (and Co-Founder of NGO Timap for Justice)

Motivated by recent discussions in the development community regarding “legal empowerment,” including a United Nations commission on the subject that completed its work in 2008, this paper reviews the World Bank’s existing work in access to justice and suggests directions for further Bank engagement in this area. 
Access to justice efforts are grouped here into six categories: court reforms, legal aid, information dissemination and education, alternative dispute resolution, public sector accountability, and research.

The paper is motivated in part by recent discussions of “legal empowerment”. Legal empowerment is a newer term and its meaning is unsettled. This paper adopts as a working definition the uses of law to bolster human agency. This is a loose paraphrase of the definition offered by Stephen Golub, who was one of the first to use the term. A thread of inquiry that runs through the paper is: how do World Bank efforts to increase “access to justice” affect the agency of poor people? 

Conclusions and Recommendations:
The paper concludes with insights and recommendations that emerge from the Bank’s experience. All justice reform interventions should attend to particularities of sociolegal context, should consider the specific justice needs of poor people, and should be planned not in isolation, but from a systemwide perspective. Legal services and legal aid interventions should confront the challenge of scale, should consider alternative methods of service delivery, and should in some cases take care to maintain at least partial independence from the state. The use of noncourt dispute resolution mechanisms should be guided by the benefits achieved in cost, time, harmony, and fairness. Evaluations of access to justice programs should go beyond “head counts” to demonstrate impact—on users of justice services as well as on society at large—and to weigh opportunity cost. 

As detailed from the Conclusion section: 
Several insights emerge from the Bank’s experience in access to justice, within and across the six themes discussed above:
  • Justice reform interventions should look beyond assumptions of generalized impact to consider the specific justice needs of poor people. An example of this kind of consideration is the study commissioned by the Venezuela Judicial Infrastructure Development Project on poor people’s experiences of the justice system.
  • Justice interventions of all kinds should be attentive to particularities of sociolegal context.
  • Individual access to justice reforms should not be considered in isolation, but rather from a systemwide perspective: what combination of interventions will most effectively maximize the right of access “in its amplest sense”?
  • Access to justice reforms have a greater chance of success when they grow out of local initiative, as seen in the partnership with Ecuadoran bar associations to train public defenders. 
  • Legal services can be designed to enhance the agency of the people that they serve.
  • Practical efforts to achieve empowerment should be coupled with further research on what empowerment looks like and how it can be achieved.
  • Legal services interventions should consider the challenge of scale. This includes placing lawyer-centered and urban services within a wider strategy to provide basic access to justice to all.
  • Much can be done to advance legal empowerment within the state, from developing mechanisms for bureaucratic accountability to building the capacity of state institutions, such as local governments and national departments on the status of women. 
  • But there is also often a strong need for independent, civil society legal empowerment efforts, to increase citizen agency in relation to state institutions.
  • Education efforts can be particularly effective when connected to concrete efforts to solve people’s justice problems.
  • Intentional public education should be complemented by a robust right to access government information on demand.
  • The use of non-court dispute resolution mechanisms should be guided by the benefits achieved in cost, time, and harmony and, importantly, by the relative fairness and equality of the process.
  • Efforts to widen access to legal identity can be integrated into work on informality, early childhood health and education, and census taking. But any such intervention should be mindful of the possible dangers and political consequences for the people being registered. 
  • Evaluations of access to justice programs should go beyond “head counts” to demonstrate impact—on users of justice services as well as on society at large—and to consider opportunity cost.

About Justice and Development Working Paper Series
The Justice and Development Working Paper Series serves as a platform for new and innovative thinking on justice and development, featuring work from World Bank staff and external authors. It is a knowledge product of the World Bank’s Justice Reform Practice Group, which generates knowledge and provides advice and assistance to Bank staff and Bank client countries on building and improving state and non-state justice system institutions and mechanisms. Justice and Development disseminates the findings of works in progress to facilitate a more rapid exchange of ideas about development issues and justice reform.

Call For Papers
Justice and Development seeks original research papers on law, justice and development. We welcome publications from both Bank colleagues and external contributors. Manuscripts must be in English, and no longer than 25-30 pages. They can be submitted to the Editorial Office at any time of the year. All submitted papers will be carefully reviewed by the Editorial Board. Criteria for selection include rigorous scholarship and innovative approaches related to law/justice and development. If you are interested in submitting a paper, please contact the Editorial Office for detailed information and editorial guidelines.

Justice Reform Practice Group
The Legal Vice Presidency, The World Bank
1818 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20433
Tel +1 202 458 2950

Sunday, December 20, 2009

More thoughts on UN Report on Legal Empowerment of the Poor

I have been following the concept of Legal Empowerment of the Poor, and have blogged about it in the past. (If you want to view all my previous posts on that topic, just search for 'legal empowerment'.) At the recent UN General Assembly, the report has been endorsed. Today, Tom Ginsburg, a respected Law and Development academic from the Unversity of Chicago Law School, posted his thoughts about the UN report on the Law and Development Blog: (re-formatting is mine for emphasis)
One of the trends in law and development practice in the past few years has been towards emphasizing legal access for the poor. The high-level Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor issued its report in 2008, and I now see that the report has received the endorsement of the UN General Assembly.
Like much in law and development, it seems to reflect a consensus between political right and left: much of the emphasis is on formalization of property rights, but also on legal services to the poor and poverty reduction.I must admit some skepticism about what all this means on the ground. Its probably safe to say that anything endorsed by the UN General Assembly must represent a consensus so shallow as to be insipid. 
In most countries, for structural reasons, the law is a mechanism in which the "haves come out ahead." Political movements, of course, can force redistribution much more effectively than the courts. I wonder if there is any evidence on this kind of thing affecting large scale change in any particular country.
Following his post, I revisited the official UNDP Legal Empowerment website, which I first announced in this post, and found that it is much more sophisticated and content filled than my last visit (maybe 6 months ago?). However, I can't find a concrete approach description anywhere (although it describes itself as having four focus areas), its 'About Us' page still seems pretty spartan:
UNDP enhanced its focus on legal empowerment of the poor following the publication of the final report of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor in 2008. As we work with our development partners on this issue, UNDP draws upon the skills and expertise of staff across our global, regional and country offices. Since 2008, we have forged partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders to share knowledge and generate strong political and financial commitment to legal empowerment of the poor.
UNDP’s Initiative for Legal Empowerment of the Poor (ILEP) which takes into account the key recommendations of the Commission, supports a range of national, regional and global efforts to expand poor people’s access to the legal and institutional mechanisms that can help them break the vicious cycle of exclusion and poverty.
This initiative aims to: 
  • generate strong political support, commitment, knowledge and understanding for the legal empowerment agenda with resolutions, decisions, and dissemination of knowledge on the subject; 
  • develop the capacity of government entities at national, provincial and local levels to undertake necessary legal and institutional reforms and to deliver legal empowerment of the poor; 
  • engage grassroots organizations in legal empowerment, supporting social movement and promoting accountability and sustainability for pro-poor reforms.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2nd #ICT4D Twitter Chat on "Learning from Failures in ICT4D projects"

After my First ICT4D Twitter Chat last month, I'm hooked on this new format of meeting, although I love and hate the limitations of Twitter chat. I find myself spending too much time shortening my sentences to 140 chars and still trying to make sense. Yet I like the quick past pace. 

I attended the second chat last Friday physically at the Inveneo office in downtown San Francisco, where I met Wayan Vota for the first time, and had a wonderful chat with after. And no, we didn't do it over Twitter this time. Summary of the Twitter Chat is here, but three main points (from ICTWorks' post) are (visit the post for more details):

1. Improper or missing understanding of users.
Technologists, like all people, have a tendency to dream big. As a result, systems are often over-engineered in the minds of the designer, without taking the time to base the design on real data points from potential users (or even from other projects). Designed in a vacuum, these projects are nearly guaranteed to fail -- users in the developing world often end up finding very little in common with an application developer in the United States (for example).
The human-computer interaction field is partly to blame for this pattern, as we haven't done a good job providing low-cost, meaningful ways to better understand users in the global south. We certainly haven't promoted use of simple techniques such as use of personas, interviews, and surveys in the early phases of ICT4D projects. Some of us, including me, are working to change this, but it will not be an overnight process.
2. Failure to focus on real problems and needs.
A failure to understand real needs is somewhat related to misunderstanding of users. After all, the better technologists are at understanding users, the better they can understand their needs. At OpenMRS, we have a mantra that "care will lead the way". This means that every bit of functionality can be traced to actual, real-life needs of the clinics and health care professionals we serve.
Unfortunately, this type of understanding can only be achieved by spending time first-hand in the environment where an ICT4D solution will be used, or, if that's not possible, by involving people from that environment directly in the design process. Eliminating time spent on "imagined" problems not only makes the technology development process faster, it also increases the likelihood the product will be well-received.
3. Expectation gap between implementers and donors.
Building on the previous two points, the chat's participants made it clear that implementers don't always do a good job of educating donors and other stakeholders about the realities "on the ground". (Perhaps this is because these "doers" don't fully understand them, themselves!) This misunderstanding inevitably leads to faulty expectations not only of the project, but also the processes of designing and implementing. Technologists must become better at "speaking donor", and also must help the donors learn a little about how to "speak tech".
This communication gap has plagued the informatics world in the global north since its beginnings, so it's not surprising to see it at play in the global south in international development projects. However, I believe the remedy may be the same in both situations - increased cross-training of people with solid technical backgrounds in concepts like interpersonal communication, project management, monitoring and evaluation.
While failures -- particularly in ICT4D -- will never be eliminated, focusing on these factors earlier in projects can help reduce of the impact of these failures, and help us "fail early and often", iteratively improving project implementations instead of failing late in the game, wasting more donor funds and invaluable time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Can authoritarianism survive the Internet? Yes it can"- Presentation by Rebecca Mackinnon

Rebecca Mackinnon, co-founder of Global Voices (which I'm a big fan of, actually of both Rebecca and GV!), recently gave a presentation about Chinese censorship of the Internet at the World Press Freedom Committee in Washington, D.C. An edited transcript of the presentation has been compiled by the WPFC and posted here. But if you have time, you should view Rebecca's interesting slides (which includes youtube videos of the Chinese Back Dorm Boys and Chinese officials' tourist videos) and listen to her presentation, which I have embed at the end of this post.

Essentially, she is challenging our (Western) assumption that the internet will promote openness, democracy and freedom in autocratic regimes.
So where is the world going from here? We Americans, especially, are inclined to assume that thanks to some magical combination of capitalism, the Internet, and Twitter, authoritarian countries will all eventually evolve in the democratic direction. But can we be so sure? Might we all meet in the middle?
At least in China's case, she believes that China's regime will remain intact despite the internet. Reasons (this is my summary of her presentation, with her transcript in block quote):

  • Most Chinese citizens do not have incentives to challange the government
    • Unlike, say, the USSR based regime, Chinese citizens are in general fairly satisfied materialistically and opportunistically. So there is no real incentive to disrupt the status quo
    • The Chinese, aside from being unable to use the internet as a tool for political dissent, pretty much in general has the same opportunities offered the internet (perhaps except for access to porn or excessive violence). So the general population is not experiencing the control, ie curbing of their freedoms.
  • The Chinese government has developed a system of control that nibs almost all voices of dissent in the bud, before it can gain popularity and momentum:
The censorship system (works) by deleting or preventing publication of writings that cross over the line. Here is what happened when I logged into one Chinese blog-hosting service, called Tianya, and tried to post something about the mothers of people killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. When I clicked on the “publish” button, I got this error message telling me my post is being held for moderation. It never appears. For most bloggers, that’s a warning you’ve crossed the line, and you know better than to try to write about that subject if you want to stay out of trouble. This kind of censorship —preventing content from being published or deleting it from the Internet completely soon after a user publishes it— is done not by Internet police. Most of it is done by private sector employees of Internet companies. This is all thanks to a legal situation which the lawyers will recognize: INTERMEDIARY LIABILITY. Internet service providers, web hosing companies, social networking services, and anybody who hosts user-generated content is held legally liable for everything their users do. Therefore they have to devote considerable overhead to hiring entire departments of employees to monitor and censor their customers. A lot of Western companies are lobbying lawmakers in Western democracies for greater intermediary liability of Internet service providers and social networks in order to fight copyright violation, and some family protection groups want more intermediary liability in order to fight criminals. But China serves as a warning to all of us for where things can end up if we’re not careful. 
  • Other autorative regimes want to follow China's example:
 What is emerging in China is a new form of networked, Internet enabled authoritarianism, which I’ve started to call “cyber-tarianism.” ...This is an example of what political scientists call “authoritarian deliberation.” It’s based on the idea that an authoritarian state can actually have a lot of give and take with its citizenry —especially in the Internet age— but show no signs of democratic reform when it comes to multiparty elections, separation of powers, rule of law... (Why would other regimes want to follow China?) China points the way for how it’s possible to hook up your economy to the global network and still maintain one-party rule.
  • At the same time, China-type control is also favored or supported by certain interest groups like child protection, and even some countries that seek to enhance security.

Watch and listen "Can authoritarianism survive the Internet? Yes it can..."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Conference: The Future of Development - Yale Law School, April 8-9 2010.

The recent, devastating global economic crisis will have a lasting impact on the efforts of international development organizations and the world’s governments to reduce poverty and improve living conditions in the developing world. While reduced funds for global development initiatives is one immediate consequence of the crisis, there may be other far-reaching consequences as governments and organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund evaluate how market-based development strategies impacted developing countries as the crisis unfolded. This year, with support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Bernstein symposium will explore the intersection of human rights and issues in global economic development. We hope to focus the attention of the human rights community on the impact of the financial crisis on existing development efforts, as well as on emerging strategies, so that the current urgent challenges may create opportunities for re-examining international development models and fostering a fruitful exchange between development and human rights perspectives.

Some proposed topics on the agenda:

Keynote Lecture by William Easterly, Professor of Economics, New York University

Assessing Development Debates from the Ground
Practitioners from aid and development organizations working in developing countries will consider how debates in policymaking and academic circles reflect and impact their experiences on the ground, and contribute their own perspectives on what best promotes development.

The UN Millennium Development Goals at Ten YearsThe 2009 United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report indicates that while important progress has been made toward some targets, many others will likely not be attained by 2015, due to the global economic crisis and the failure of world governments to fulfill pledges for increased aid.  Some have questioned whether the MDGs even represent an approach worth pursuing, while others have argued that the goals are virtually unmeasurable, and that because of a lack of scientific rigor in the monitoring and evaluation of development programs, it is difficult to know how much progress has really been attained, and to what the progress is attributable.

Aid, Corruption, Conflict, and Democracy
Two recent provocative books have focused new attention on the relationships between aid and governance. Paul Collier, in Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, argues that western governments and institutions promote superficial democracy in aid-recipient countries in ways that lead to unrest and instability, holding back development and increasing poverty. Dambisa Moyo in Dead Aid argues that western aid to African governments has kept dictators in power and caused rampant corruption, themes echoed by Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda. However, their policy prescriptions are very different.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Interesting Berkman webcast on "Information"

Having done ICT work in development for a while now, it is easy to get lost in the technologies (and even more so, the politics). It's great to get a chance to step back into theory and philosophy at revisit the entire concept of 'Information', which was what David Weinberger's presentation was about at Berkman last week.  Materials including webcast here, or you can read the draft of the presentation at David's blog post.


What Information Was

David Weinberger, Berkman Center

Tuesday, November 10, 12:30 pm
Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor
RSVP required for those attending in person (
This event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET and archived on our site shortly after.
It's puzzling that even though we named an age after information, very few people can tell you what information is. And the ones with the clearest answers are often defining information in the technical sense, which is not the sense in which the culture took it up. In this session, we'll look back at information, trying to understand what about it led us to embrace it as the dominant -- paradigmatic -- way of understanding ourselves and our world. David Weinberger will present an informal sketch of a direction, suggesting that we leaped into information because it reflected a long-held but squirrely metaphysics. There will be lots of time for open discussion.

Monday, November 16, 2009

First ever #ICT4D Twitter Chat

I attended the first ever #ICt4D Twitter Chat. Actually it was also my first twitter chat. Organized by ICTWorks/Inveneo, it was cool to connect with others interested in ICT4D on Twitter. Wow- it was a challenge keeping things to 140 characters, though! The official announcement is here, and here is a transcript of the chat. It was a first chat, so it was all over the place in terms of topics, but it was awesome to find others interested in the same area of work (though I'm still crying out to connect with others interested in ICT for Law!). ICTWorks is also asking for feedback and ideas on topics, so let them know! 

Sunday, November 15, 2009 Why pick the Elgg platform?

Following my previous post on as a social networking site running on the Elgg platform, I was curious about Elgg. 

While Facebook and Linkin are social networking sites that allow some functionality for creating networks within networks, Elgg is like Ning, probably the most popular and well-known social networking platform, that allows you to create your very own social network. However, unlike Ning, Elgg is open source, allows more owner control - including the branding, the domain name, the features, the design, the community rule, or even the database, and lets you run your social network on your own server. Elgg operates on a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql and Php) environment and it is easy to install and configure.  Elgg also won best open source social networking platform in InfoWorld's 2008 Best Of Open Source Awards, which might indicate why UNESCO used Elgg for the site. in 2008 chose these Elgg as the best open-source social networking software, followed by mahara, Loved by Less, Xoops with Yogurt social network extension, and AROUNDMe. Read more details here. Makeuseof selected Ning, Snappville and CollectiveX as the top three hosted social networking sites for non-geeks (details here).

WSIS Community turns into a Web 2.0 Social Network (

I chanced upon a Web 2.0y community site for WSIS that is linked to the WSIS Forum 2010 announcement page on ITU's site. The site is called simply 'WSIS' community, is located at, and powered by Elgg (an open source social networking platform). The site looks pretty new, with a few groups and very little content. 

On further probing (there is no 'about' page on the site), I found out that it was created by UNESCO and launched  earlier this year at the annual WSIS follow up meeting in May.  

Pre-launch announcement from UNESCO's site:

“It is good to see how the WSIS follow-up is evolving with the technological and related social developments,” says Mr Khan, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information. “Facebook, You Tube, Twitter and blogging provide entirely new tools for putting many of the WSIS visions into reality.” 

At the Geneva Forum next week, UNESCO will launch its WSIS community platform, which includes blogging, Facebook-like features and the possibility to insert your Twitter in your personalized online platform dashboard, etc. “This platform was requested by the WSIS community, has incredible potential and will also make the follow-up process more inclusive,” says Miriam Nisbet, Director of the Information Society Division. She adds: “The platform will facilitate our WSIS related discussions, networking and information sharing. It is an Open Source product with great features and the possibility to evolve with the WSIS community.” (Readers are invited to explore and take a sneak preview at:"

Microjustice handbook by ILA

Micorjustice, now having the experiences of two (still ongoing) pilots in Bolivia and Peru, has published a pdf version of Microjustice handbook that summarizes a 'how to' and 'lessons learned' from the two pilots. The handbook is available in English and Spanish, and you can download it for free (with or without providing your information in a form). You can find the description of the book, as well as the book itself, via the link below

ILA has developed a Microjustice Handbook in cooperation with the Microjustice Country Programs. The handbook is developed to assist any organization and/or group of people in setting up microjustice activities. The Handbook is available in the Spanish and in the English language. It can be downloaded free of charge. ILA is active to keep the Handbook complete and to provide updates regularly. If you have any corrections, remarks, suggestions or additional information that we can use, please contact us. In this way you help un to provide the best available information and improve the handbook for future users. E-mail:  ILA - Microjustice for All wants to invite operational Microjustice Organitations as well as newly developed Microjustice Country Programs to share their information and experiences with us. Please contact us via this form

Thursday, November 5, 2009

ASIL 104th Annual Meeting- International Law at a Time of Change, 24-27, 2010, Washington DC

Visit for more conference details.

With over a century of tradition and experience behind it, ASIL's Annual Meeting has become the most important gathering in the field of international law. More than 1,000 practitioners, academics, and students travel to Washington, DC, each spring from all over the world to debate and discuss the latest developments in their field. ASIL's 104th Annual Meeting, which will reflect on the theme "International Law in a Time of Change" will be held March 24-27, 2010 at The Ritz Carlton in Washington, DC.

The current moment provides many challenges and opportunities for both international law and the international lawmaking process. Today's substantive issues - from armed conflict to climate change to the financial crisis to terrorism - have generated much new thinking about international legal rules and structures; at the same time, efforts to create new law implicate the interests of, and require the cooperation of, new and existing actors and institutions at many levels of governance. Our traditional models of international law are seeking to adapt to changing norms, approaches to governance, and governmental and nongovernmental actors - a process made more dynamic by the early approach the Obama Administration has adopted towards international problem-solving. For others, these new approaches pose problematic challenges to the existing international legal order.

The 2010 American Society of International Law Annual Meeting will grapple with these issues. Panels and other fora will present a broad range of perspectives on the remaking of international law through new modes of lawmaking, new methods of global governance, new actors engaging international and transnational problems, and new substantive rules to address evolving and complex problems.

Through this exploration, the 2010 Annual Meeting will consider the extent to which this time of change on so many fronts does and should impact the nature of international lawmaking. How, if at all, can the model of sovereign and equal nation states consenting to law encompass the increasing roles of subnational, nongovernmental, and corporate actors and the networks interconnecting them? In what ways should the making of treaties and customary international law include new actors and approaches? Which existing and new fora should be available to them? What new international institutions or institutional reforms do contemporary challenges demand? How will the embrace of new institutions and actors - or the failure to embrace them -affect the legitimacy of international law? What dangers or challenges to the international legal system do new approaches to international lawmaking present? Above all, what new substantive norms are required, and how should they be achieved?

The American Society of International Law, with its membership of leading scholars and practitioners of international law from around the world, is uniquely situated to provide an unparalleled exploration of international lawmaking in this time of change. We hope you will join this exciting conversation at the 2010 Annual Meeting.
March 24-27, 2010
The Ritz-Carlton
1150 22nd Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Free Virtual Conference: "Practicing Law in a Virtual World"

The Second Life (SL) Bar Association is organizing the above virtual conference next week on 11/8/09. The SL Bar Association is an informal professional organization that helps members navigate the Second Life legal landscape. Meetings, lectures, and social events are held regularly. Attorneys, legal scholars, and other legal professionals are encouraged to join.

(There is an entire movement about this issue- you can start by join and/or read more at the SL Bar Association Ning Network at

Conference Agenda: "Practicing Law in a Virtual World"
Nov. 8, 2009On Saturday, Nov. 14, SLBA and the ABA-Young Lawyers Section are sponsoring "Practicing Law in a Virtual World" at the Fredric G. Levin College of Law, University of Florida Campus in the virtual world of Second Life. Attorneys and others are invited to attend. There will be two sessions and an informal mixer.

Session 1: Practice Issues Unique to the Virtual World Setting
 Practicing law in an environment where either your client or the person they are dealing with are not in the same jurisdiction raises unique issues. The virtual environment also provides an opportunity for interaction of remotely located legal team members and clients. In addition, Second Life and other virtual worlds have their own local cultures and civil rights issues. This session discusses these and other practice issues unique to representing companies and individuals in a virtual world setting.

Session 2: Substantive Issues in a Virtual World
Copyright violation is a common complaint in a virtual world setting, but there are many interesting topics that are unique to practicing in a virtual world. How can I have an enforceable contract in a world with no “law”? If another person’s avatar attacks my avatar in a non-warring world, is it a crime? Find out what issues virtual worlds attorneys and their clients face in this session on substantive issues in a virtual world.

Mixer: Panelists and conference attendees will have a chance to talk with each other informally.

Please RSVP with your Avatar name to receive your pass and with any questions to: or in-world IM: Michele Jigsaw.

More info -

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Best ICT4D Conferences?

ICTWorks, an online resource and network for ICT4D professionals, has requested for folks to post their recommended ICT4D conferences here. If you have a suggestion, please let them know! Either way, it will be interesting to follow the responses.  

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Conference Announcement- China and India: The End of Development Models?- 12-13 April 2010, Wellington, NZ

A conference examining the correlation of 'development' and economic growth, "to revisit some of the long-troubling issues in post-War development research and debate: Is the developmental state essential for economic growth? Is export concentration inevitable? Are corporate groupings necessary? Does law matter? How do cultural and social relations contribute to economic and social development?"

The Wellington Conference on Contemporary China 2010
Dates: 12 - 13 April 2010
Call for Proposals Deadline: 30 January 2010
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Website: The Wellington Conference on Contemporary China 2010

Over the last thirty years, the impressive growth performance of China and India has caused a new wave of global anxiety about the rise of power and wealth outside the developed world. More pointedly, scholarly interests and debates have focused on how the rising China and India would change the international political and economic structure, and whether India or China would outperform the other in a long run. 

What is missing amidst the anxieties and fanfare about the two new “giants” is a genuine scholarly interest in an understanding of how the impressive growth and social transformation has been achieved in these two unique countries. With “Japan as No 1” in the 1950s and 1960s, the “four little dragons” in the 1960s and 1970s, the extension of the “East Asian miracle” to the rest of the Pacific Asia in the 1980s and 1990s, and now China and India, scholars must have enough empirical evidence to revisit some of the long-troubling issues in post-War development research and debate: Is the developmental state essential for economic growth? Is export concentration inevitable? Are corporate groupings necessary? Does law matter? How do cultural and social relations contribute to economic and social development?

Moreover, China and India are two major world civilizations that have taken very different paths in modern development. Modern state building started in each of these countries under a set of very different conditions. China and India have been problematic cases in modern development. With the two countries reaching a new historical phase of their modern development, it would be useful to revisit the scholarly debate on modern development again and hopefully to lift it to a new level: how colonial experiences, nationalism, communism and socialism affect a nation’s modern development? How traditional social structure, values and relations transform or persist in modern development and how these shape the emergent modern state? Are there different types of modernity or different models of modern developments?

The conference is designed to bring leading scholars in the field to address these issues. We are very pleased to have Professor Wing Thye Woo of UC Davis; Professor Pranab Bardhan, UC Berkeley; Professor Zhenglai Deng of Fudan University; Professor Prasenjit Duara of National University of Singapore; Professor B. Sudhakara Reddy of Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research; Professor Fu Jun of Peking University; Professor Sun Shihai of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Dr John Alexander Michael of University of Madras, Professor Sheng Kaiyan of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences; Professor Guo Sujian of Fudan University; Professor Dilip K. Das, of Conestoga College; Professor Heng Quan of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

UNDP will hold Panel Discussion on 'Legal Empowerment of the Poor', Oct 16th

UNDP will hold a panel discussion on 'Legal Empowerment of the Poor' on 16th October, at the UN HQ, in conjunction with a debate of the same topic by the General Assembly. Official announcement here

Because it is such a relatively new endevor by the UN, the discussion topics are still very broad, and include:
  • How can legal empowerment of the poor support the achievement of MDGs?
  • How can property and land rights and tenure security as well as labour rights and rights to entrepreneurship play a critical role in securing the livelihoods of the poor?
  • What factors and strategies will determine the success of legal empowerment initiatives and reforms on the ground?
  • What are some of the approaches taken in implementing legal empowerment initiatives around the world and what are the lessons learnt?
  • How can a stronger partnership among the national government, NGOs, CSOs and CBOs and the private sector be developed to foster legal empowerment of the poor?
  • How best the international community can mobilize and channel resources to support national and sub- national level efforts for legal empowerment of the poor?
  • What specific role the UN can play in promoting legal empowerment of the poor?
I will be interested to see if any concrete outcomes result from the discussion. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Legal Empowerment event at European Development Days (EDD)

For the first time, Legal Empowerment of the Poor will be featured as an event at the EU's European Development Days. Here is the official announcement of EDD Legal Empowerment of the Poor event at the 4th EDD event to be held in Stockholm from Oct 22-24 2009. Invited speakers include:
  • George Soros
  • Mary Robinson
  • Helen Clark
  • Karel De Gucht
  • Clotilde Medegan
  • Joakim Stymne
You can follow it live on the website, or visit it post-conference for materials. 

(UPDATE: 12/15/10:  There is now a two-part video if the Legal Empowerment event, or you can listen to the same event via MP3. The site also contains many other useful event-related resources on international development.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Relationship between Law and Development (Davis and Treilcock, 2008)

Davis and Treilcock (from NYU and U Toronto respectively) have co-authored a paper laying out the state of current academic thinking of law and development. My summary follow:
  • Examining articles appearing in recent Law and Development books,  they note that is more of disagreement than consensus on the topic:
Although the (articles) reflect decades of practical experience with and scholarly reflection upon legal reforms in developing countries, at the end of the day they are remarkably inconclusive. None of the authors represented in these
volumes seem strongly optimistic about whether legal reforms are likely
to promote development... -... however, their views range from mild optimism to mild skepticism and it is not immediately apparent how to resolve the differences in points of view and resulting uncertainties...We are struck by the lack of consensus.
  • They also argue that flowing from that landscape, there are three questions that challenge whether law can have any impact in development
We show that there is ongoing debate about fundamental questions such as whether law is an important factor in determining social or economic outcomes in developing societies given the existence of informal methods of social control; whether there
are insurmountable economic, political or culture obstacles to effective
legal reform; as well as, assuming effective legal reform is feasible, what types of reforms are conducive to development and what types of actors ought to implement them.
I interpret these questions as follows:
  • Conceptual- Does law have any causal impact on development? We don't really know, from the lack of evidence. Some of us suspect not.  
  • Design- Even if it does, do we know how to design good programs? How do we decide what priorities and strategies are?
  • Implementation- Even if the design is good, might there be so many obstacles that we won't succeed?
  • Their  Conclusion:
We argue that although there are some reasons for optimism about the potential impact of legal reforms upon development, the relevant empirical literature is inconclusive on many important issues and counsels caution about the wisdom of continuing to invest substantial resources in promoting legal reform in developing
countries without further research that clarifies these issues.

  • My thoughts: 
    • I appreciate the ambitious undertaking of crunching so many recent articles, and trying to organize them into a 'optimist vs skeptic' framework
    • They corroborate with my own take on the state of thinking (current and historical) on Law and Development
    • They certainly went into much detail on certain parts of theoretical analysis
    • Moreover, there are so many ambiguities surrounding concepts such as 'development', 'law', and 'success' that it is impossible to measure impact.
    • I think that the field is still relatively new, and that it is tempting to take a 'all or nothing' approach to thinking about any field. As a practitioner, I can say that I've seem some really successful projects, some neutral projects, and some projects that have caused more harm than good through unintended consequences. I don't think that it will ever be that we will get 100% success.
  • Read the entire article here:
Kevin E. Davis and Michael Trebilcock, The Relationship between Law and Development: Optimist versus Skeptics, New York University Law and Economics Working Papers, New York University School of Law (April 21, 2008).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

UNDP-LEP's video "Capitalism at the Crossroads"

Previously I announced UNDP's LEP YouTube channel, and was hoping to see more independent video clips. They are still mainly UNDP focussed, with a PR-ish tone. Today, I chanced upon this promo video with Hernando De Sota, talking about capitalism (from his economic angle of course) and the exclusion of the poor by the legal system. Nice footage, at least, and a good introduction for those who have not done much grassroots international development work. 

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Report of the Secretary-General on Legal Empowerment

With all the recent activity in Legal Empowerment, led by the UN Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, the UN Secretary-General has released his report endorsing the Commission's report and providing operational direction on how the UN can implement the policy. You can read and download the pdf of the report here.

From the Report's Summary:
The present report has been prepared pursuant to General Assembly resolution 63/142 on the legal
empowerment of the poor and eradication of poverty. The report summarizes the emerging
approach to legal empowerment of the poor; highlights the operational scope and focus of legal
empowerment of the poor; summarizes national and regional experiences and the role of various
organizations of the United Nations system in fostering empowerment of the poor; and addresses
challenges and lessons learned.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

ADB and Asia Foundation Publication on Legal Identify and Poverty

The Asian Development Bank (through the research of The Asia Foundation) has published a study on legal identity and poverty, Legal Identity for Inclusive Development, accessible on ABD's and TAF's respective websites.  This publication presents the findings of a three-country study on legal identity, based on extensive field research conducted on ADB's projects in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan. This study assesses the potential and actual value of legal identity, given the realities of the developing country context.

What I appreciate about the ADB/TAF approach is the emphasis on local realities that results in lessons learned after many years of on-the-ground programming. The general available literature on legal identity is usually either focused on the technicalities of civil registration, or advocated for universal birth registration. While there was some information on the correlation between legal identity and poverty, there was very little research in the field on the causal link between the absence of legal identity and exclusion. This research aims to contribute to the debate on legal identity and access to goods, services and opportunities, from a practical and empirical  perspective. It attempts to answer questions on what legal identity can realistically deliver in terms of promoting inclusion, and on how, when and under what circumstances legal identity actually improves lives in concrete and meaningful ways. 

The publication proposes that legal identity is an important element of inclusive development, provided that its promotion is part of a larger reform agenda. As the research demonstrates, legal identity touches upon many aspects of life, ranging from access to education, land and business registration, obtaining utility connections, and obtaining travel documents such as passports. Possessing some form of legal identity will become increasingly relevant to people’s day-to-day lives as countries develop their capacity to provide goods and services, economies grow, and regional integration deepens.

Conclusion and Recommendations:

However, the publication concludes with caveats against isolating registration as an ends :

Too often programs aimed at increasing civil registrations are based on an inadequate problem analysis that fails to differentiate between intermediate and ultimate outcomes.

When designing mainstream development projects in areas such as education, health, land rights, small and medium enterprise development services, and delivery of utility services, development partners need to critically analyze the potentially negative impact of the existing identity regime. Key questions to ask in the project design phase are: Could the domestic legal identity regime limit the range of project beneficiaries? If so, what can be done to mitigate this undesirable result?

The value of a civil registration document is only as far reaching as the state’s capacity to provide services and enforce laws intended to protect citizens’ rights. In countries characterized by poor governance, weak institutions, and resource constraints, legal identity may make little practical difference without complementary reforms.

International pressure and donor support have engendered an increased level of political priority, domestic attention, and government engagement on the issue of legal identity in the three countries studied.

Two innovative approaches that hold some promise for addressing the central sequencing dilemma are highlighted here. These approaches are recommended because they use existing resources, and demonstrate an appreciation for citizens’ priorities and needs.

One of the most promising strategies, particularly for addressing the sequencing challenges, involves piggybacking registrations onto other service delivery programs. Rather than making benefits contingent on proof of identity, this reverse approach provides birth registrations through avenues where other benefits and services are already offered.

Another strategy that has proven effective involves bringing registration to the people’s doorsteps. such as a massive, nationwide mobile registration.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Top 10 Court Websites 2009 by "Justice Served"

Justice Served, an alliance of court management and justice experts, conducts a "Top 10 Courts Websites Awards" annually since 1999. While this is predominantly a US-based team, they asset that they assess all court websites worldwide- a few Singapore Courts websites won a few times, as did Australia and England. I don't doubt that they survey the entire landscape, but these would be the usual suspects for eGovernance.

When designing eLaw or eGovernance websites for my projects, I often consult these sites. If you look at the awards over the past 10 years, you will be able to see how court websites are more effective in service delivery and user design- based on new technologies and peer best practices. The evaluation criteria it uses for these awards is also relevant as a basic benchmark of what makes a good eGovernment/court website. (There have been numerous indicators and guidelines for eGovernance webdesign, that I hope to pull together soon)

These sites are 2009 winners, and the panel's comments.

Why do California superior courts consistently make our list? Because they are full service operations, and it makes great sense to put these services online. Orange County is a first time winner, but they deserve top honors for their terrific organization and navigation, including a handy “how do I” pull-down menu and ready access to e-content. To round it off, all complex civil litigation must be processed online.
Another first-time winner, Colorado recently revamped their site using extensive public and staff outreach to determine what to include, resulting in significant improvements. E-court functionality is front and center with easy reading contrast and great navigation.
From citizen access terminals to WiFi in the courthouse, this court gets it. The site is chock-full with e-dockets, e-tickets, e-fines and even e-probation. As early pioneers of streaming video, it’s no wonder they are a 3-peat winner.
It’s hard to find something this 3-time winner doesn’t offer online. Highlights include e-ADR, improved traffic case management, and a virtual international judicial think tank called E-Justice Judges’ Corridor. Wow!
This 2003 winner does it all, but has particularly useful restraining and protective order content, courthouse location information and multiple language support.
This international offering provides services in six languages, online payments, index of judgments and court calendars online with a twist — they’re readable on PDAs.
Iowa is back in the winner’s circle with a full array of online services including dockets, payments and jury services.
Limited jurisdictions are truly the “people’s court” and Spokane offers online payments, traffic postponements, traffic “mitigation” pleas and case/calendar indexes.
Federal district courts offer the same services, but Maryland’s simple, straightforward organization and presentation separates them from their colleagues.
This state legal portal leads to court-specific online content, but also serves as a valuable Internet resource for lawyer and litigant alike.
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