Rule of law, politics and development: the politics of rule of law reform

Research reports and studies
April 2016

Rule of law remains a constant theme in development policy and practice, and in recent policy discourse and internaional commitments it has gained a new level of prominence. Despite this recognition, the history of international support to the sector's reform is peppered with a sad trail of failures and underachievement. 

While these failures have been widely documented, the international development communtiy is more committed than ever to advancing an agenda on rule of law support. This is evidenced in the UN Declaration 2012 at the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law and the inclusion of justice for all in the Sustainable Development Goals. 

 How to square the recognition that rule of law really matters wiuth the poor track record of reforming it? Drawing on different analytical and empirital bodes of work on the international rule of law, this report seeks to find some better answers to this question. In doing so, it reviews key trends over time and makes the case for drawing on two current  propositions for changing policy and practice, namely: 1. The link between rule of law and political settlements and, 2. being politically smart and adaptive in approaching rule of law reform. 

In developing some reflections on these recent trends, this note is thus a call to new research and analytical reflection on their implications for policy and praxis of rule of law support.