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"Emerging Trends in Justice and Development Practice in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States"

Over the past five years, a consensus has emerged that there is a pressing need for a paradigm shift in justice reform programs in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS). The World Bank’s recent World Development Report (WDR 2011)  argues that countries marked by deep institutional fragility and a history of conflict and violence cannot realize their potential, cannot achieve even the Millennium Development Goals, unless a plausible degree of physical and economic security is first restored and achieving those goals requires addressing critical root causes and stresses related to (i) physical security; (ii) justice (accountability, grievance redress, equity, predictable administration and enforcement); (iii) jobs and economic opportunity; and (iv) institutions for managing these stresses. Although the WDR and every development agency make a strong case for devoting greater attention to justice and security to address fragility and violence, it is the area of justice which still needs greater clarity on what these terms mean in practice. 

There has been considerable criticism of the track record of justice reform programs in FCS. These programs have promoted outcomes ranging from market-based economic growth and rule-based, democratic governance, to the protection of human rights. Across a wide range of objectives, they have focused on enhancing the efficiency, capacity and normative content of a set of laws and institutions within the “justice sector.” In recent years there has been increased focus on non-state or customary justice institutions, but there is still much uncertainty about how to reconcile these systems with international norms and state-building efforts.  Especially in FCS, such approaches have often failed because of political opposition, economic constraints or social norms outside formal state justice institutions. In turn, the focus on a narrow set of central state institutions and laws often leaves unexplored the local context where central state institutions are often absent, ineffective or perceived as not legitimate. We will explore some specific country examples and consider directions for the newly emerging paradigm.

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