Monday, August 30, 2010

Does International Development Aid work? - a review of recent books

I'm a big fan of books, and related to this blog, in particular books on intentional development and law work. Here in Uganda, in one of the better foreign-friendly bookstores, I see an abundance of aid-related books, focusing on many different topics. One thing that surprises me is the number of books on aid in general, trying to answer the question of whether international aid works. 

On that very topic alone, you will find a spectrum of views varying from aid euphoria to skepticism to downright contempt/ridicule of aid. Over the last few years alone, some books I've come across, in order on the spectrum from 'aid is bad' to 'aid is good' are:
  • The Aid Trap: Hard Truths About Ending Poverty, R. Glenn Hubbard (2006) - Not surprisingly, these authors, being from the Columbia Business School, make the case that current foreign aid and Third World projects are not working because the general strategy for aid creates a charity trap, instead of promoting real growth through cultivating a functioning business sector. 
  • Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang (2007)- An effective critic of globalization and a protectionist on the side of the free-trade debate, the author considers the first world to be bad Samaritans because they had used the same unfair protectionist approaches to improve their economies and now are in fact advocating for free market and free trade to the poor countries in order to capture larger shares of the latter's markets and to pre-empt the emergence of possible competitors. 
  • Does Foreign Aid Really Work?, Roger C. Riddell (2008) - I'm personally a big fan of Riddell's previous books, and his current book does not disappoint as one of the most comprehensive, scholarly and objective on the subject. He undertook a massive literature review of aid (although some have criticized that they are mainly inherently biased donor reports), which,  combined with his own long personal experience as a practitioner, concluded with something that sounds like 'yes, aid is working, but not as well as it should'.
  • Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics, Carol Lancaster (2006) - looking at bilateral aid from both a seasoned practitioner and academic point of view, this former USAID administrator looks at the motivations behind aid in the biggest donors- United States, Japan, France, and Germany, and Denmark. She shows that bilateral aid is neither purely a tool of diplomacy or altruism towards developing countries, but it is really used for a combination of reasons. From this point of view, aid then makes sense, because it at least fulfills most of these goals of the donor countries. 

The Big Picture: Law and Development, Legal Empowerment and the Microjustice Movement

I was recently asked by the wonderful folks at Microjustice4All to write a short introductory article about how microjustice fits into the bigger Law and Development context. I revisited some content of this blog and realized that, while I have been blogging about Law and Development, Legal Empowerment and Microjustice for a while now, I don't yet have a post on the big picture context. So I'm reproducing my article as follows:

The Big Picture: Law and Development, Legal Empowerment and the Microjustice Movement

International Development is a relatively new field of practice, and even newer still is the Law and Development field, which began in the 1950s. For many years, Law and Development projects have been highly criticized as being ineffective, and even today, there continues to be many debates (both between academics and practitioners) about whether law has a role in bringing about international development, and if so, what that role is. The international community is still continuing to find new and better ways to old problems. Might microjustice be an answer?

While many smaller grassroots NGOs have always focused on concrete ways which law can be used to benefit poor people in their own countries, donor countries and large development agencies like the World Bank has concentrated on big, top-down law reform projects such as law-making, court reform and legal training. However, in the 1990s, these expensive programs appear to have made little to no impact on poor people at all. Along with a bigger movement to focus on the poor (spearheaded by the UN though the Millennium Development Goals), the Law and Development industry started to focus on the people who matter the most- not the judges, lawyers or formal legal departments, but marginalized, unempowered poor people.

Initial discussions among passionate people resulted in the formation of the United Nations ‘Commission on the Legal Empower of the Poor’ in 2005 to examine this issue. After three years of research and the publication of their report in 2008, ‘Legal Empowerment of the Poor’ soon became a new way to think about Law and Development. While there are still debates about the details of the UN report, most practitioners are relieved that, finally, the concept of bottom-up legal work focusing on the poor has been recognized in the international arena. In particular, grassroots organizations that have done legal empowerment work for as long as the big agencies have on top-down reform are the first to celebrate. Still, their work is far from over, because billions of people are still without basic rights, access to justice, and legal empowerment.

It is within this context that an individual started to explore innovative ways to bring justice and legal empowerment to poor people. Instead of the traditional donor-based approaches, Patricia van Nispen wanted to find a way to bring relevant legal services to the poor in a way that is truly sustainable and scalable. Patricia, who was nominated by renowned Utne magazine as one of 50 Visionaries who will change the world, pushed the envelope with a visionary concept called Microjustice, premised on the dignified belief that poor people are willing and able to pay for services that they need and want. With the creation of Microjustice for All, then MJ Bolivia, MJ Peru, MJ Argentina and now MJ Uganda, we are all together riding the exciting beginning of a big, unprecedented movement in the Law and Development field.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

African Land Grabbing: whose interests are served?

Now that I am based in Uganda to implement a microjustice model for legal empowerment (that includes services that addresses property issues like land titles and see these issues again first hand), I am reminded of the political economy issues as expounded in this fairly recent and readable article by Brookings Director of the Africa Growth Initiative Ernest Aryeetey discusses transnational land acquisitions in Africa.

Read the article...

African Land Grabbing: Whose Interests Are Served?

Ernest Aryeetey, Director, Africa Growth Initiative
Zenia Lewis, Research Assistant, Global Economy and Development, Africa Growth Initiative
The Brookings Institution

The subject of transnational land acquisitions, infamously referred to as land grabbing, has increasingly become an important policy concern in Africa as acquisitions have grown in scale and number. The practice involves the purchase or lease of large tracts of land by foreign nations, companies or individuals for agricultural production. These land acquisitions differ from most foreign agricultural investment of the past because, as the Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) also notes, the investors are resource seeking instead of market seeking. Therefore, they are effectively using the land or water of a country solely for agricultural repatriation and not for commercial export. The scale of such land acquisitions has increased greatly. From 2004 to early 2009, at least 2.5 million hectares were transferred in five African countries alone (IFPRI). Recent estimates point to land acquisitions that each encompass millions of hectares of land. Of concern is that the land leased by African governments to foreign interests was previously occupied by poor local and indigenous populations who have little control over such land transfers.

Such practices are undoubtedly reminiscent of the colonial era with foreign nations again staking a claim on the continent. However, since African governments are partnering with foreign investors in the land grab, onlookers are left to question if this is another case of corrupt African leaders selling their citizens short or simply governments pursuing an economic development opportunity. Evidence suggests a marked disparity in the benefits received by those involved in and affected by these transnational land acquisitions, particularly for those originally dwelling on the land. Such a problem deserves both increased international attention and country-level debate to ensure such agreements provide more equal benefits to all parties involved.

The scale of recent land transactions: Who is involved and in what form?

There is a diversity of international participants involved in these land transactions. However, Middle Eastern countries, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi are some of the biggest investors. A study by the Wilson Center states that these nations and East Asia were estimated to be controlling over 7.6 million cultivable hectares overseas by the end of 2008.

The list of host countries participating in these land transactions is somewhat lengthy; a 2009 study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) lists Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia as all being involved in allotting foreign land leases or purchase agreements. In addition, the report from the UN Special Rapporteur on food security lists the main target countries in Africa as Cameroon, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia. A March 2010 article by the U.K. Guardian states that more than 20 African countries are part of such transnational land transactions.

Unlike Latin America and Eastern Europe, the land deals taking place in Africa predominantly involve government allocated land leases or land-use rights being distributed instead of land sales. The types of land agreement are ultimately determined by the status of land ownership within countries, which in Africa often involves collective ownership. In fact, an estimate from the World Bank states that between only 2 and 10 percent of land across Africa is held under formal land tenure, which is normally just in urban settings. Many African countries also have restrictions on whether non-nationals can own land, which further determines the types of land agreements that are legally permissible. Due to these factors, foreign investors often arrange long-term land lease agreements; Sudan, Angola, Ethiopia and Mali have all taken part in land leases that are 50 years or more in length.

Another important feature and the most poignant source of complaints with the land transfers is the insecurity and poverty that is often experienced in the host countries, which are often marred by political conflict, war and food shortages. As stated by Odenda Lumumba, the coordinator of the Kenya Land Alliance, “Isn’t it the height of recklessness in leadership for the government to give out land to Qatar when Kenya is food insecure and we are literally being fed? Where is the logic?” Similarly, a large proposed land lease with Daewoo in Madagascar sparked political concerns because of the large portion of the population living in poverty, and the state of food insecurity in the country. A May 2009 article inThe Economist noted the irony of Saudi Arabia spending almost as much money on agricultural investments in Ethiopia as the UN World Food Program was spending on food aid there. In addition, a Wilson Center study observes that very few host governments have strong and independent democratic institutions. This information paints an important picture of the African nations involved in such land agreements.

Why is it happening?

While this phenomenon is not new, the practice has accelerated in the last few years. The trend is attributed to numerous causes. One widely recognized cause is the world food crisis of 2007 and 2008, where from the start of 2007 through the middle of 2008 The Economist index of food prices rose by 78 percent. As expected, the increase in food prices coincided with a large increase in the price of farmland. According to IFPRI, in 2007 alone the price of farmland rose 16 percent in Brazil, 15 percent in the Midwestern United States and 31 percent in Poland. This increase in farmland prices has triggered the increased global interest in obtaining cheaper farmland. Other factors include: an increase or desired increase in the production of biofuels; limited resources in some countries, particularly water shortages in regions like the Middle East; and an overall lack of confidence in the international food market. According to Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, developing countries and specifically sub-Saharan Africa are targeted by foreigners because of the perception that large amounts of land are available, along with desirable climates and inexpensive local labor.

Expected benefits to African countries

While the benefits for international actors are obvious, the benefits to African countries may not be as apparent. For example, one of the most important patterns to notice in these transnational land acquisitions is the limited importance of financial transfers. A recent report (FAO, IIED and IFAD) revealed that the main benefit to the host country is perceived to be investor commitments like employment creation and infrastructure development. Similarly, the study indicates that such land agreements can provide macro-level benefits like GDP growth and greater government revenue, raise local living standards, and bring technology, capital and market access. In addition, improving the productivity of African agriculture undoubtedly serves as a huge point of interest for governments seeking foreign investment and in turn transnational land leases.

Unfortunately, many land lease contract provisions tend to lack substantive details for enforcement. Thus, the anticipated benefits may not necessarily be provided. In addition, concrete evidence regarding the impact of such land acquisitions is scarce partly due to the difficulty in disaggregating investment information, which makes quantifying the effects challenging. Potential benefits for host countries are, however, still very plausible, and hopes of job creation, infrastructure development and increased productivity are immensely important to a developing Africa.

A highly criticized process

Despite the possibility for benefits associated with such land transfers, reactions have been highly critical and the perceived costs to the local land users appear high. First of all, complaints about the lack of transparency in land agreements are widespread, a problem which can easily spur corruption and unfair negotiations. Many reports describe unbalanced power relationships where rich governments or international companies have an obvious advantage in negotiating with African nations that may not always be politically stable or respectful of the rights of their citizens and may lack the institutional frameworks necessary to enforce contracts.

Similarly, the issue of land tenure comes up repeatedly, as African governments are criticized for failing to protect their agricultural workers from exploitation in this regard and accused of leasing land that they only “nominally own.” Land deals are often done in secret without informing the current land users, which causes them to be suddenly dispossessed. Meinzen-Dick of IFPRI told IPS in an interview that such fears are defensible because "in Africa, where much of the land is held under customary tenure… the government is the ‘owner’ of the land, and they may not always consult with or get the consent of people who will be affected." The leasing of such land, when statistics indicate that 70 percent of Africans work in agriculture – a sector which provides 50-70 percent of Africa’s GDP, is obviously a fiercely sensitive issue.

Existing international norms

Despite many injustices in negotiating such land agreements, and the fact that land tenure varies from country to country, there are some existing international norms that address this issue. First, Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights obliges states to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food. This would indicate that any land transfer that is obviously increasing food insecurity for the original land users is unjust. Article 8 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples mandates that states should provide mechanisms for preventing any action, which could potentially dispossess indigenous people of their lands. Article 10 states that indigenous people are guaranteed not to be forcibly removed without prior and informed consent, and then only after having an agreement regarding just and fair compensation. Article 32 formalizes the idea of free, prior informed consent (FPIC), stating explicitly that “states shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.” All of these international norms are excellent if only African countries complied with them in the process of transnational land acquisitions; however, this is not always the case.

How can African governments deal with the challenges associated with land grabbing?

All of this begs the question of how to make transnational land agreements consensual endeavors as opposed to unwelcomed “land grabbing” that infringes upon the rights of local land holders. While there are definite possibilities for macro level economic benefits for African countries from foreign investment in agriculture and land development, these gains may not be felt by those originally dwelling on the land. The issue must be seriously and immediately debated by African governments and civil society. While some issues are not debatable, like respecting land rights of local small holder and subsistence farmers and not exacerbating food insecurity, the possible economic benefits and costs to each party – foreign investors, African governments and local land dwellers – must be transparently and openly analyzed before agreements are finalized.

The conversation has recently revolved around imposing international regulations upon transnational land agreements, but at a national level such regulations might be difficult to enforce, especially considering the secretive manner in which many negotiations take place. By no means is this a bad idea, but ultimately individual African nations need to address this issue. The land policies of individual African countries should account for the important subject of transnational land use and serve to protect the rights of land users and small holder farmers. Attempting to reform land tenure systems so that the contracting power in such agreements is in the control of local land users would also aid in addressing the issue. Civil society groups and organizations that advocate for effective land use policies are of utmost importance in pushing this agenda, which requires immediate attention. Mutually beneficial decisions need to be made, and this cannot happen when land agreements continue to take place in an opaque manner and without the involvement of the public.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Berkman Event: Modeling a Paradigm Shift: From Producer Innovation to User and Open Collaborative Innovation

In Uganda, I find myself wondering how this can apply to legal services for the poor? 

Tuesday, September 14, 12:30 pm
Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floorRSVP required for those attending in person (
This event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET and archived on our site shortly after.

Both innovation by individual users and open collaborative innovation is increasingly competing with and may displace producer innovation in many parts of the economy. This represents a paradigm shift with respect to innovation research, public policy related to innovation, and innovation practice. Eric will present the basic story and we will transition to a discussion of important implications and interesting research opportunities.
About Eric
Eric von Hippel is T Wilson Professor of Innovation Management, and also Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT. Von Hippel is known for his research into the sources of and economics of innovation. He and his colleagues find that product development is rapidly shifting away from producers to users and to open user collaborations in the Internet Age – is being “democratized.” This shift in the locus of innovation requires responsive changes in company business models and government policymaking. For example, policy must be altered to support an information "commons" model of innovation rather than only model based upon proprietary intellectual property. Von Hippel’s book, Democratizing Innovation (2005) is available free on the web at

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

FailFaire- a Discussion on failures in ICT4D projects (no, REALLY!)

My long time colleague and friend, Katrin Verclas recently founded MobileActivea New York-based nonprofit network aiming to improve the lives of the poor through technology (also known as 'ICT4D' efforts in our industry). I've seen lots of dismal results from the use of technology in development projects (most of them not due to technology, but rather politics and people), but it's true that they are not usually shared with the world (which is an understatement). So I have to love this honest and gung-ho attitude, which is only Katrin's- 
“I absolutely think we learn from failure, but getting people to talk about it honestly is not so easy,” she said “So I thought, why not try to start conversations about failure through an evening event with drinks and finger foods in a relaxed, informal atmosphere that would make it seem more like a party than a debriefing.”
(UPDATE 8/22. True to Katrin, I received this post from her to a maling list we both belong to:
"Love to see a #failtrack included in all conferences - there really is a lot to learn from other's people's #fails.  And, by the way - since this idea occurred to me in the shower, is completely unfunded, and a loss leader (good booze is expensive, you know), here are our 7 Tips on How to Roll Your Own FailFaire:"
The New York Times reports on the event as follows: (and most of us involved in ICT4D conversations will get the joke about the One-Laptop-Per-Child laptop as prize. Aside from that, I'm also impressed about the sponsorship- not the mention the candor (drinks sure can help!)- of the World Bank...)
WASHINGTON — At a gathering last month over drinks and finger food, a specialist at the World Bank related the story of how female weavers in a remote Amazonian region of Guyana had against all odds built themselves a thriving global online business selling intricately woven hammocks for $1,000 apiece.
The state phone company had donated a communications center that helped the women find buyers around the world, selling to places like the British Museum. Within short order, though, their husbands pulled the plug, worried that their wives’ sudden increase in income was a threat to the traditional male domination in their society.
Technology’s potential to bring about social good is widely extolled, but its failures, until now, have rarely been discussed by nonprofits who deploy it. The experience in Guyana might never have come to light without FailFaire, a recurring party whose participants revel in revealing technology’s shortcomings.
 “We are taking technology embedded with our values and our culture and embedding it in the developing world, which has very different values and cultures,” Soren Gigler, the World Bank specialist, told those at the FailFaire event here in July.
Behind the events is a Manhattan-based nonprofit group, MobileActive, a network of people and organizations trying to improve the lives of the poor through technology. Its members hope light-hearted examinations of failures will turn into learning experiences — and prevent others from making the same mistakes.
“I absolutely think we learn from failure, but getting people to talk about it honestly is not so easy,” said Katrin Verclas, a founder of MobileActive. “So I thought, why not try to start conversations about failure through an evening event with drinks and finger foods in a relaxed, informal atmosphere that would make it seem more like a party than a debriefing.”
There is also a prize for the worst failure, a garish green-and-white child’s computer nicknamed the O.L.P.C. — for One Laptop Per Child — a program that MobileActive members regard as the emblem of the failure of technology to achieve change for the better. When Ms. Verclas held it up during last month’s party, the room erupted in laughter. (Jackie Lustig, a spokeswoman for O.L.P.C., said the organization did not consider its program a failure.)
With the prize in his sights, Tim Kelly, a technology specialist at the World Bank who had just flown in from South Africa, found himself in front of a screen displaying what looked like a line drawing of a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs but in fact was an effort to explain the roles and relationships of the many partners in the Global Capacity Building Initiative, a program aimed at building strong policies and regulatory environments to foster the expansion of the Internet in developing countries. “This is the point in the evening where I’m suddenly asking myself why I let myself be talked into this,” Mr. Kelly said.
He nonetheless gamely continued. One big problem with the project is that three groups raising money for it were more interested in raising money for themselves, Mr. Kelly said. “One raised money and when it finished doing that, took the money and went off and did its own work,” Mr. Kelly said.
The initiative had too many “players,” he continued. Donor countries wanted vastly different things. It was way too complex, he said, gesturing at the spaghetti bowl.
Next time, he said, he would advocate for an initiative that matched specific donors to specific projects and not work so hard to be all things to all people.
His eight minutes of torture over, Mr. Kelly returned to his chair, looking somewhat relieved.
Mr. Kelly’s employer, the World Bank, sponsored the event here last month.
“The idea is that not only should we be open about what we’re doing, but we should also be open about where we learn and our mistakes,” said Aleem Walji, practice manager for innovation at the World Bank. “The cost of not doing so is too high.”
Mr. Walji said he was surprised to find, when he joined the bank from Google last fall, that mistakes were rarely discussed, so different from the for-profit world, where failures are used to spur innovation.
Google, for example, has blogged about the failure of its Google Wave application on Aug. 4., saying that while it had “numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked.”
“Wave has taught us a lot,” wrote Urs Hölzle, senior vice president for operations at Google.
Mr. Walji pointed out that “the private sector talks about failure freely and candidly,” while the nonprofit world “has to worry about donors who don’t want to be associated with failure and beneficiaries who may not benefit from admissions of failure.”
Next up, after Mr. Kelly, was Mahad Ibrahim, a researcher whose work was approved by the government of Egypt as part of a Fulbright Scholarship, helped assess an Egyptian government program to roll out telecenters across the country to increase access to the Internet. The program has grown to more than 2,000 such centers, from 300 in 2001.
But numbers alone can be deceiving. Mr. Ibrahim started his research by calling the centers. “The phones didn’t work, or you got a grocery store,” he said.
He headed for Aswan, where government records showed 23 telecenters. He found four actually working.
Mr. Ibrahim concluded that the program had failed because it did not take into account the rise of Internet cafes in Egypt and because the government had, in most cases, picked as partners nonprofit groups whose primary mission had little or nothing to do with the Internet, communications or technology.
The failure, in other words, was in not understanding the ecosystem in which the telecenters would be operating. “We dump hardware down and hope magic will happen,” said Michael Trucano, senior information and education specialist at the World Bank, whose offering to FailFaire was a list of the 10 worst practices he had encountered in his job.
His presentation clearly resonated with the attendees, who voted him the winner of the O.L.P.C.
“I guess it’s a dubious distinction,” Mr. Trucano said later, “but I thought it was an enjoyable evening and a useful way to talk about a lot of things that civil servants don’t like to talk about.”

Monday, August 16, 2010

Community Organizing Handbook

As I evolve further from law/legal/governance reform work and get more and more involved (again!) with legal empowerment work, the bottom-up power from community organizing is becoming more important to me. I found a great wiki-based (ie you can help edit the document and make it better) Handbook For Community Organizers by Netsquared. Netsquared focuses on social web/new media/web 2.0 tools and is a project of Techsoup, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that supports other nonprofits in the use of general technology (and which I'm a fan of since the early days of NPower founded and managed by my friend Joan Fanning). 

What I like about the Handbook is that it is grounded in using both non-IT and appropriate IT-based tools for community organizing, based on concrete examples used by nonprofits (albeit in US). But I can see ways that it can be adapted worldwide even in developing countries. If anything, Techsoup (and many bay area nonprofits in general) are leading at the intersection of technology and social change. 

Visit the Handbook For Community Organizers. Being my area of interest, here are some links from segment of the Handbook on using digital tools, which are so powerful, when used approproately and in complement to non-IT tools, but which many nonprofits are quick to dismiss. (But to the technophile- I know, I know, even I at some point I will go "Oh, this list is SOOOO 2010..."): 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Berkman Conference: Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?

September 25
Atlanta, Georgia
Visit the conference website for more information on the conference agenda, registration and logistics
We're pleased to announce that the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard's Berkman Center and the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University are co-hosting a conference on September 25, 2010 entitled "Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?" in Atlanta, Georgia.
If you are a journalist, blogger, or a lawyer who works with media clients, the conference should be at the top of your schedule. This will be a fantastic opportunity to learn first-hand the latest legal developments and to get your questions answered by our panel of experts.
The program will bring together panels of legal practitioners, journalists, and academics to discuss the latest legal issues facing online media ventures. Topics will include: libel law, copyright law, newsgathering law, and advertising law, as well as the legal issues arising from news aggregation, managing online communities, and business law considerations for start-up online media organizations. Small-group workshops will focus on strategies for accessing government information and understanding legal terms in content licenses, freelancer contracts, and website terms of service and privacy policies.
If you need personalized legal assistance before or after talking about these media law issues, contact the Online Media Legal Network, a legal referral network for independent online media administered by the Citizen Media Law Project at the Berkman Center.
Funding for the conference is being provided by the Harnisch Foundation, which has been a long-time sponsor of the Center for Sustainable Journalism and recently provided a grant to the Berkman Center to support media law education.
Visit the conference website for more information on the conference agenda, registration and logistics.

Visiting the Hague- Tilburg University and TISCO

Being in the Hague, I got a chance to visit Tilburg University Law School (which I have blogged previously many times such as here) and TISCO, along with the many institutions in the Hague and Holland in general, are great proponents of justice. In fact the concept of microjustice originated from a partnership between Tilburg University and and the ILA (see previous post on microjustice here). I'm just amazed at how advanced they are relatively to the US, on the issues of justice and law and development. Perhaps it is their location at The Hague, City of Justice and Peace. ;)


TISCO's focus is on justice needs in civil law. Key to our research are the individuals and corporations who use, are involved with, or are influenced by the law and the civil justice system. Taking a bottom-up approach, TISCO members develop, integrate, and apply insights from negotiation theory, conflict research, dispute system design, (comparative) legal research, network theory, behavioural law, and law and economics in their research in order to connect and extend the body of knowledge on building, maintaining and (constructively) ending horizontal relationships in which people and businesses are involved.
Core Competences
TISCO's core competences are in the fields of access to justice, ADR, and conflict system design; complex relational networks and (inter)dependency (e.g. contractual relationships, family law, bankruptcy, and tort); and behavioural private law. Some TISCO members are specialised in facilitating large and complex multiparty processes (consensus building processes and negotiated rulemaking).
Our approach is interdisciplinary and increasingly empirical-based. There is a strong focus on innovation, product development, and collaboration. TISCO is the only academic workplace in the world developing user-focused theories on, and applications for collaborative, interest-based, low-cost services and dispute system design. Salient examples of such projects are the Measuring Access to Justice Project (, the Microjustice Initiative ( and Rechtwijzer ("Signpost to Justice",
Some of our research takes a more dogmatic route by researching new social phenomena, such as the increasing complexity of relationships and networks. We aim to provide the basics of a relational network theory of civil law, for instance by exploring the means to prevent coordinating problems in large building and construction projects and by developing new contract and governance models.
We do not do our work in isolation. TISCO members work closely together with legal scholars and researchers from other scientific disciplines within and outside Tilburg University, and with stakeholders from societal organisations, NGO's, and governments. We actively participate in national and international networks, and build new collaborative partnerships, such as the Measuring Access to Justice Network.
TISCO has its origins in the Department of Private Law of Tilburg University and in the Center for Liability Law.
TISCO organization chart.

Prof. J.M. (Maurits) Barendrecht(publications)
Prof. M.A.M.C. (Matton) van den Berg(publications)
Prof. W.A. (Willem) Hoyng(publications)
Prof.dr. A.C. (Bert) van Schaick(publications)
Prof. T.F.E. (Eric) Tjong Tjin Tai LL.M.(publications)
Prof. I.N. (Ianika) Tzankova(publications)
Prof.dr. A.L.P.G. (Alain) Verbeke(publications)
Prof. P. (Paul) Vlaardingerbroek(publications)
Prof. J.B.M. (Jan) Vranken(publications)
Prof. R.D. (Reinout) Vriesendorp(publications)
Prof. R.M. (Reinout) Wibier(publications)

M.W.F. (Thijs) Bosters LL.M.(publications)
R. (Rachid) Chetouani LL.M.
J. (Jael) Diamant LL.M.
Dr. G. (Gijs) van Dijck LL.M.(publications)
R.J. (Robert) Dijkstra LL.M. M.Sc.(publications)
C.J.M. (Karlijn) van Doorn LL.M.(publications)
Dr. M. (Martin) Gramatikov LL.M.(publications)
K. (Kathelijne) van Gulick LL.M.(publications)
Dr. S. (Stéphanie) van Gulijk LL.M.(publications)
Dr. M.W. (Machteld) de Hoon LL.M.(publications)
R. (Romy) de Jong LL.M.
Dr. L. (Laura) Klaming M.Sc.(publications)
C.C.H.A. (Christel) van der Kop LL.M.(publications)
N. (Noortje) Lavrijssen LL.M.(publications)
J. (Jessey) Liauw-A-Joe LL.B.
J. (Janneke) van der Linden LL.M. M.Sc.(publications)
Dr. V. (Vanessa) Mak LLM(publications)
J. (Jobien) Monster LL.M.
J.M.H.P. (Anne-Marie) van Neer- van den Broek LL.M.(publications)
R.B. (Robert) Porter M.Sc.(publications)
O. (Omar) Salah LL.M.(publications)
P. (Paul) Sluijter LL.M.(publications)
C.H.M.A. (Cecile) Smid - de Munnik LL.M.(publications)
V.M. (Veronica) Smits LL.M.(publications)
W.J. (Wouter) van 't Spijker(publications)
N.E. (Nadine) Tijssens LL.M.
F.A. (Floortje) van Tilburg LL.M.(publications)
J. (Jelle) van Veenen(publications)
J.H. (Jin Ho) Verdonschot LL.M.(publications)
J.A.A.M. (Jiri) Verschure LL.M.(publications)
C.M.C. (Corry) van Zeeland LL.M.(publications)
C.B.M.C. (Charlotte) Zegveld LL.M.(publications)

Research Fellows:
Dr. Paolo Balboni LL.M.(publications)
Dr. Nicole van den Heuvel LL.M.
- Margot Kokke LL.M.

Research Assistants:
J.J.A. (Jurgen) Braspenning

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