The International Network to Promote the Rule of Law: A Platform to Promote Justice and Security in Conflict-Affected States

The 24 September 2012 Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels1 reaffirmed the importance of promoting rule of law, justice, and human security around the world.2 Rule of law promotion has been an intrinsic part of the work of the United Nations since its inception. Over the past six decades, in addition to advancing the international community's strategy in how to best aid countries coming out of conflict in rebuilding their justice and security systems, the United Nations has expanded its view of rule of law, justice and human security as being more than just formal institutions and high-level government actors, but also encompassing local communities and their ability to access justice and security in their daily lives.
The challenges that national governments and the international community are facing in promoting the rule of law in the aftermath of conflict are immense: local communities expect their governments to establish justice and security immediately while also bringing back a sense of normalcy to their lives, and international donors expect that if they provide resources to governments and local non-governmental organizations, their investment will yield quick impacts and rule of law gains. All of these pressures are occurring against the stark reality that developing the rule of law, access to justice and human security in any country takes decades to come to fruition.3

With the growth of the number of people, organizations, and areas of rule of law reform comes an increasing need to not only promote good practices and processes, but also to provide national and international actors with the resources needed to achieve long-term successes. The Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels4 urges donors, international organizations and civil society actors to provide technical assistance and capacity-building, including education and training on rule issues, as well as to share practices and lessons learned on the rule of law at the international and national levels.5

Consider the following real world problems that rule of law practitioners face:
 

  • A country coming out of conflict is faced with an abundance of detainees held on suspicion of conflict-related crimes. The courts are not fully functional. Human rights organizations are noting violations of detainees' rights, with arbitrary detention being a top priority. When trials occur, judges are under pressure to convict accused persons as their release may spark retribution killings. How should courts balance the need to protect the detainees' lives while also protecting their right against arbitrary detention?
  • Due to insecurity in a particular conflict-affected country, police forces have become less focused on civilian policing and more focused on terrorism, resulting in a more militarized police force that struggles to engage with local communities. How does the country, along with the international community, professionalize and civilianize the police to ensure that it is meeting the needs of the local communities?
  • In a country where police corruption is rampant, use of force goes unchecked, and the internal accountability structure of the police system allows impunity. National and international actors are looking to create an independent oversight mechanism. No guidelines exist on how to do this. What kind of system can be set up that will end the impunity within the police force?
  • Individuals who struggle to address these challenges can turn to the International Network to Promote the Rule of Law (INPROL) for help.

INPROL: A VIRTUAL COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE

Established in 2007, INPROL is a global, online community of practice, comprised of some 2,100 rule of law practitioners from 180 countries and 300 organizations (see www.inprol.org). Members come from a range of relevant disciplines and backgrounds whose main focus is to work on rule of law reform issues in post-conflict and developing countries. They also share a desire to learn and innovate together as a community, because they want to improve their rule of law knowledge and practice. In order to ensure productive exchanges and to allow for the free sharing of information, access to INPROL is restricted to individuals who are currently working on rule of law issues in their own or in a second country.

INPROL is spearheaded by the United States Institute of Peace in partnership with the United States Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units, the Strategic Police Matters Unit at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, William & Mary School of Law, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre and the Institute for International Law and Human Rights. INPROL also has a number of affiliated organizations and research institutions, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The day-to-day operations of INPROL are supported by the INPROL Research Team, which is based in Washington, D.C.

SHARING GOOD PRACTICES AND FILLING THE RESEARCH GAP

The primary goal of INPROL is to help national and international rule of law practitioners solve the problems they face in the field, and to better promote the rule of law based on its initiatives and good practices from other countries that have proven to be effective. Among the many features of INPROL that facilitate better practice is the digital library, with a repository of over 3,000 documents related to both the technical areas of reform as well as the principles and practices that guide our work. When members are looking for general information on a particular topic, this is where they will generally begin their research. For specific queries not squarely covered by existing literature, INPROL members have another avenue to pursue. INPROL houses two online forums—one dedicated to rule of law or corrections issues and the other to policing issues—where practitioners can post questions on the challenges faced. Other members are alerted to the new query and engage in peer-to-peer dialogue. Members post responses, share resources and provide general guidance based on their experiences dealing with the issue at hand. Often practitioners (or their organizations) neither have the time nor the resources to undertake in-depth research; in such cases, the INPROL team steps in to fill the research gap.

INPROL's unique research support begins from the premise that in order to address the challenges practitioners are facing, they need practical and accessible information based on experiences in multiple countries. INPROL's team looks to highlight initiatives and practices that are empirically proven to have worked and have positively impacted the rule of law. It also facilitates the process of bringing together both practical field experience and research expertise through literature reviews, as well as through reaching out to members with specific expertise on questions posted on the forums to garner relevant lessons identified and experiences from the field. The emphasis is always on providing as many comparative examples as possible so that the person who has asked the question on the online forum has many models that can be adapted and potentially applied to the country in which she or he is working. In addition to the team itself, INPROL relies on its Council of Experts, a group of rule of law experts who have both field-based and academic expertise, to gather the highest quality information.

BREAKING THE SILOS IN THE RULE OF LAW COMMUNITY

In addition to sharing good practices and conducting comparative research to support the work of its members, INPROL also seeks to promote coordination within the broader rule of law community, which is as diverse as the types of initiatives that can be undertaken to promote the rule of law. In conflict-affected countries, there is typically rule of law assistance provided by the United Nations and its various agencies, regional organizations, bilateral donors, international non-governmental organizations and think-tanks. The international rule of law community works with partner governments, the local legal community and civil society in-country.

However, coordination within the international and domestic rule of law communities is not always easy. INPROL stands for the principle of coordination and communication across organizations and across countries. INPROL seeks to break down the institutional and geographical silos that currently exist, and even those within particular countries to bring together practitioners in a virtual forum so that they can begin to communicate, share and learn from each other. As an example of coordination and communication in practice, through INPROL a government official in the United States with a question about criminal investigation assistance to conflict-affected States who posted a query on the Police Forum interacted and shared information with an Australian Federal Police trainer based in Canberra, who had worked all over the Asia-Pacific region on criminal investigation. Another way that INPROL promotes coordination and communication among various actors and agencies is by means of a very simple tool on INPROL that allows members to search the community member directory by country. INPROL's members have used this online feature to create a network of fellow professionals before they deploy to a particular country.

INPROL seeks to foster innovation in the field of rule of law and recently launched the Dialogue Forum, which provides space for members to discuss the big picture questions facing rule of law and to engage in a community conversation about how it can develop more innovative and effective initiatives to support the rule of law. In the future, INPROL will look to develop online training components to increase the capacity of practitioners. To achieve the goal of having a professional cadre of international and national rule of law practitioners, however, we must all continue to come together as a community in virtual places like INPROL.

Notes

1  United Nations General Assembly, Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, A/67/L.1 (2012).

2  Ibid., para. 2.

3  World Bank, World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development (2011), para. 10.

4  General Assembly, "Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels", A/67/L.1 (2012).

5  Ibid., para. 38.