By: Kristin Beharry
Traditional justice is expensive and difficult to attain. The cost of litigation in time and money, judicial corruption, fear of retribution, and other barriers push the most marginalized out of the sphere of national courts. Among the most marginalized are those harmed by internationally financed projects. From herders in Mongolia to farmers in Liberia, communities affected by projects financed by international financial institutions have little judicial recourse for violations of their environmental and human rights by large corporations; however, that does not necessarily mean that they have no recourse.
International financial institutions (such as the World Bank, International Financial Corporation (IFC), and Asian Development Bank), and many export credit agencies and private corporations have their own accountability offices, mandated to hear complaints from affected communities. In the last 20 years, these accountability mechanisms have grown exponentially, from only the World Bank Inspection Panel in 1994 to 52 different accountability offices in 2014. Accountability offices provide communities with an outlet to voice their complaints through various pathways: (1) by entering a mediated problem-solving process with the project company, or (2) by initiating a compliance review where the financial institution’s investigators evaluate the environmental and social due diligence and impacts of … Read More »
This week South Sudan celebrated its three year independence anniversary after voting to secede from Sudan on July 9, 2011. Though 99 percent of the population voted for secession, South Sudan’s transition to independence has been far from smooth. Struggling with economic collapse, civil war, and famine, South Sudan has faced a slow development trajectory and, in fact, has topped Foreign Policy’s 2014 Fragile States Index (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/fragile-states-2014), passing long-time number one Somalia.
Before secession the region of South Sudan contained almost seventy-five percent of Sudan’s oil reserves and prior to independence South Sudan was producing 350,000 barrels of oil per day. Following independence oil was expected to comprise almost 98% of the country’s economy. However, South Sudan, which under Sudan had never developed significant infrastructure, did not have the requisite pipelines or refineries to independently produce and sell their oil. Sudan charged exorbitant fees for use of these facilities attempting to preserve the scheme, which occurred when the countries were united, under which the north and south equally split the profits from the oil. To combat this price gauging South Sudan halted oil production in January 2012. Though this eventually led to negotiations with Sudan, it also resulted in enormous inflation … Read More »
Access to justice for women and engaging informal justice mechanisms
In the U.S., approximately one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. The statistic is similar around the world, but the legal and institutional infrastructure to adequately prevent such violence and provide sufficient redress to victims is often completely absent in many developing countries.
In rural Sierra Leone, for instance, I witnessed a woman run to the nearest police station immediately after being beaten by her husband, and with a large open wound on her head. Despite the clear evidence of assault, the police took little action to investigate the crime. In part, this was because they lacked training, capacity and even the resources to attempt to locate the accused, who had fled by then to a nearby city. Because they lack the funding and resources (including an adequate salary), police sometimes ask complainants for bribes to continue the investigation or money for travel and equipment – which means that victims are essentially funding the police, rather than the government. Clearly, cost is a huge barrier for victims who come from poor families or rural regions who live on under $2 a day. Beyond this, the police … Read More »
The LIDS family is growing and going global!
During the 2013-2014 school year, LIDS launched LIDS Global, a pilot program aimed at growing the LIDS family and the opportunities that come from being a part of the LIDS community. As described in more detail on our LIDS Global page, this past year, six universities collaborated on a research project built off the previous year’s LIDS white paper project focusing on corruption. Students in Singapore, Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania, the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka have created LIDS-like student organizations that, while separate entities from Harvard LIDS, all researched the issue of corruption in their own countries or regions with the ultimate goal of sharing this information with each other on a LIDS-provided platform.
As 2013-2014 Co-Vice Presidents of Collaboration, Maryum Jordan and I have been working with these groups since Fall 2013. Often we started by speaking with one student we were put in contact with by acquaintances. That person would then gather other interested students, work with their school’s administration, and create a student organization and a research plan. Thanks to the wonders of Skype and the amazing motivation of these students, we have been able to coordinate meetings with these groups despite 11+ hour time differences and continents between us.
There has been … Read More »
Human trafficking leaves no land untouched. In 2013 the U.S. State Department estimated that there are 27 million victims worldwide trafficked for forced labor or commercial sex exploitation. A 2011 report from the Department of Justice found that of more than 2,500 federal trafficking cases from 2008 to 2010, 82% concerned sex trafficking and nearly half of those involved victims under the age of 18. Scholars note that the phenomenon represents a serious health issue for women and girls worldwide. Beyond the human cost, trafficking may also compromise international security, weaken the rule of law and undermine health systems.
Since the United Nations adopted the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children in 2000, global efforts have been made by the international community to address the growing problem. Challenges remain significant, however, in particular because of its profitability: According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, second only to illicit drugs. A 2011 paper in Human Rights Review found that sex slaves cost on average $1,895 each while generating $29,210 annually, leading to “stark predictions about the likely growth in commercial sex slavery in the future.”
A 2012 study published in World Development, “Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?” investigates the effect of legalized prostitution on human trafficking … Read More »