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.

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