Professionalizing the Rule of Law Consultants

by Chris Borgen

A new association, the International Network to Promote the Rule of Law(INPROL), was recently formed under the auspices of the US Institute of Peace. INPROL’s mission

…is to assist international rule of law specialists in their efforts to prevent conflict and stabilize war-torn societies. An internet-based knowledge network, INPROL provides those serving in the field the ability to exchange information with other experienced practitioners and experts, and to access relevant documents, best practices, and related materials – thus turning “lessons learned” into lessons applied.

INPROL seeks to foster an integrated approach to the rule of law by incorporating multiple professional communities, including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, civilian police, stability police, corrections officials, legal advisors, and judicial administrators.

Membership in INPROL is open to those who are currently serving in a rule of law related capacity, as described above, or those who have previously done so. Membership is also open to scholars and others with specialized expertise of relevance to this community.

In the words of Thomas Carothers, (from his Foreign Affairs article The Rule of Law Revival) the rule of law’s “sudden elevation as a panacea for the ills of countries in transition from dictatorships or statist economies should make both patients and prescribers wary.” The development community has had a track record of flocking towards new solutions for international poverty and development. Export-led growth, microlending, and “good governance” have each been a flavor-of-the-month. The rule of law may have started as such, but I think that since the early 1990’s it has become more of a perennial favorite.

Regardless, none of these policies is a magic bullet. Hard-won advances against poverty and for social justice have required a delicate balancing of many different such policies attuned to a variety of societal, evironmental, and political nuances.

That is why I think INPROL may be just what the ever-growing rule of law consulting community may need: an institution dedicated to information sharing and analyzing actual policy results. While there is a wealth of information like this being generated at the World Bank, the OSCE, and private consultancies (and everyone seems to know each other in the rule of law community), an institutionalized clearinghouse and forum may help consolidate and disseminate information that is sometimes passed-on only haphazardly.

Consider, for example, the following from the INPROL site:

INPROL seeks to make available the best and most updated information on international rule of law issues. In addition, INPROL seeks to assist the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and European Union to gather the following types of documents into mutually searchable databases:

° Assessments and checklists
° Mission start-up documents (strategic plans, operational protocols and standard operating procedures, budgets, terms of reference, equipment requirements etc.)
° Project documents (e.g. setting up a special court or witness protection program)
° Doctrine
° Training and education documents
° Legal codes
° International treaties and standards, and
° After action and lessons learned reports.

If this actually comes to fruition, then the quality and effectiveness of rule of law consulting may rise.

Professional associations play a vital role in the standard-setting and self-policing of their professions. The can help weed out the bad actors and provide resources for the good ones. As the rule of law consultancies become more professional, I hope there will be fewer “beltway bandits” who parachute into countries and dispense vapid advice at a high price and more experts who will do the difficult work that needs to be done (although, granted, probably still at a high price).

So, I wish the best of luck to INPROL. May this be viewed as a significant step in the growing effectiveness of rule of law consulting.

2 Responses

  1. Chris:

    The link you have to INPROL is incorrect, it leads you to a non-existent rather than Attack of the acronyms…

  2. Oops. I corrected the link.



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