Law and International Development in Private Practice

April 14, 2013 – Maria Parra-Orlandoni
LIDS was delighted to host panelists Anne Falvey from Sidley Austin and Dolly Mirchandani from Allen & Overy to discuss private firm work related to international development, including project finance, energy and infrastructure, and public-private partnerships. What followed was a stimulating conversation about the intricacies of this practice area. Dolly and Anne explained that much of the work’s complexity can be traced to the differing perspectives of each potential client, which includes government agencies, debtors, and project owners themselves. Accordingly, the panelists highlighted some of the challenges of brokering ideas to different clients to ensure that a proposed project would be completed. Dolly and Anne also discussed yet another layer of complexity: international development projects, while mostly built on a series of commercial contracts, often have complex policy underpinnings.

Overall, the guest panelists’ account of their work was fascinating. Each of them described the exciting variety of industries their work has touched, including renewable energy, electricity transmission, schools, and even satellites. Both Anne and Dolly graciously hosted small group discussions following the panel presentation, leaving many law students eager to learn more about an international development practice in a private law firm!


Summers in Development: Daniel

October 11, 2012 – Daniel Holman

For summer following my 1L year, I worked with the European office of a U.S. staffing and business services company in Vilnius, Lithuania.  Building in part on connections to the Lithuanian-American community, the company had recently found success in expanding to Europe by recruiting IT professionals in the Baltic to provide services U.S. and Western European companies.  Beside the opportunity to go abroad and experience an in-house legal department’s perspective, the legal underpinnings of the cross-border investments and trade in services on which that business depended was an added point of interest.  In addition to reviewing contracts and other work from the headquarters in Detroit, I spent much of the summer interacting with Lithuanian business and government leaders to understand the benefits and challenges of attracting and managing foreign investment.  Lithuania’s position as something of a crossroads nation–both geographically between east and west, and developmentally in the way it has built an advanced economy while still in wake of rapid social changes following independence in 1991–make it an interesting place to observe and think about how globalization plays out in different corners of the world.  It was also a reminder that development doesn’t just happen in the global south, but within individual countries and regions, and that opportunities for growth and development in one area may shape and be shaped by events far afield.

If you have any questions about Lithuania, in house work, or how any of this actually relates to development, don’t hesitate to contact me at


LIDS Team Presents Paper on New Developments in Whistle-Blower Protection at the World Bank

September 16, 2012 – Phil Underwood

This summer, members of the Harvard Law and International Development Society (LIDS) presented a paper at the International Corruption Hunters Alliance (ICHA) conference in Washington, DC. The conference, sponsored by the World Bank, brought together anticorruption officials from all over the world, including World Bank’s Regional Governance and Anticorruption Adviser Lisa Bhansali, the conference moderator. The LIDS team worked with Alexandra Habershon from the World Bank’s Coordinator for the International Corruption Alliance and Integrity Vice Presidency.

Over the course of the spring semester, LIDS team members Connie Sung, Gisela Mation, Nico Palazzo, Phil Underwood and Sushila Rao worked together to develop a paper based on a series of case studies on whistle-blower programs around the world. These case studies showcased both newly-implemented and existing policies and mechanisms on whistle-blowing. These mechanisms have been designed to encourage whistle-blowers to come forward with information surrounding public-sector corruption, and offer them protection after doing so. LIDS studied whistle-blower programs in countries across the world, specifically India, Peru, Bhutan, Morocco, and the United Kingdom, as well as a mechanism implemented by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a regional organization in eastern Africa. Case studies specifically analyzed the institutional and legal structures of these programs and their impacts on broader corruption policy.

Some highlights of the case studies include:

  • a new SMS- and voicemail-based system to accept complaints of illegal exploitation of mineral resources in the Kivu province of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • Project VIGEYE, a crowdsourced system offering citizens multiple means to complain about corruption throughout India, and a fully digitized system for keeping track of such complaints;
  • new legislation on whistle-blower protection in Morocco, which includes provision for hiding of complainants’ identities by marking down false addresses and using voice-obscuring technology in testimony;
  • a comic book published by the Peruvian Controloría Generalto boost awareness of their whistle-blowing and anti-corruption efforts; and
    • a series of recent rules promulgated by the Bhutanese Anti-Corruption Commission covering, among other things, debarment of corrupt firms and the making of gifts to public officials.

In keeping with the broader themes of the ICHA program, which is “focused on the introduction of new approaches such as crowd sourcing and citizen engagement” to the fight against corruption, the case studies investigated the role of technology on whistle-blowing policy. Many regions in the developing world lack the communications infrastructure that is common in North America and the EU, so policies must take into account the need for alternative methods of making complaints, especially the use of mobile phone technology. Ideally, countries around the world will be able to adopt these new mechanisms for the promotion of whistle-blowing in cases of public-sector corruption, and the limitation of corruption.

The LIDS team also benefitted from the aid of (and would like to thank) World Bank corruption experts and national authorities, and its supervisors, Harvard Law School Professor Philip Heymann and Christelle Dorcil of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. Other speakers at the event included Carla Salazar, General Secretary for Peru’s General Comptroller; K. Subramanian, Officer on Special Duty for the Central Vigilance Commission in India; and Hari Mulukutla, Consultant to GIZ for the Regional Resource Governance Project in West Africa.


Summers in International Development: Megumi

September 10, 2012 – Phil Underwood

LIDS’ very own Co-VP of Projects, Megumi Tsutsui spent her summer in Cape Town, South Africa, where she worked at the Legal Resources Centre (LRC). In her work as a Chayes fellow, she compiled a research report involving the small-scale mining sector in South Africa. Please read her blog post here for more information on her experience and her work.

Also, please check this blog in the near future for more LIDS members’ experiences working in international development as part of their summer activities.


From Peanuts to Peanut Butter:
Unleashing Tanzania’s Potential to Move Up the Value Chain

April 19, 2012 – Colette van der Ven

“I am sorry,” an elderly man mumbled as I was walking up a hill, looking rather lost. I couldn’t figure out why he was apologizing. Was it because I looked lost, or because I was walking uphill? Either way, I smiled and thanked him, quietly amused by this Tanzanian practice of apologizing for the inconvenience of others. I wasn’t, however, in the least inconvenienced. I was appreciating Arusha’s moderate climate and green landscape—a stark difference from humid Dar es Salaam—while looking for the CEO of Golden Food Products Ltd.

When I finally found Mr. Ayo’s factory, we set down for tea with milk and sugar—a remnant of Tanzania’s colonial past—and I learned all about his family business. Since Golden Food Products began producing peanut butter and jam in 1998, it had expanded significantly and had also began to sell organic spices and honey. The company had built quite a name for itself, as its high quality products were sold in the local supermarkets and frequently used by high-end hotels. It supported over 3000 smallholder farmers, provided employment and health benefits to a few dozen women, and created a high-quality product for local consumers.

While I was thrilled to see the impact this local business was having on the economy, I was wondering why small/middle-scale agro-processors are such a rarity in Tanzania. Are the initial capital requirements too high? What are the policy and regulatory barriers to a flourishing business? What barriers prevent Tanzanian businesses from being competitive in the international market?

During my J-term in Tanzania, I talked to experts from the public and private sector, farmers, and government officials in an attempt to answer these and other questions related to middle-scale agriculture producers and processors. Some key obstacles emerged.

Tanzanian agro-processors and businesses are disproportionately affected by heavy taxes. District governments apply a 2.5% production tax when produce crosses district boundaries. Other taxes include a 1% tax over all invoices, a fee to get a business license that the government plans to reintroduce, and a 40% increase in tariffs on electricity usage. The last issue in particular is problematic for agro-processors like the Golden Food Products.

Another barrier is side selling.  Many farmers and agro-processors in Tanzania provide credit to smallholder farmers to buy inputs (equipment, fertilizer, organic licenses, etc.). Side selling occurs when a smallholder farmer that has received such credit ends up selling its produce to a trader instead of the nucleus company to pay down credit.

Tanzanian agro-processors that are export-oriented have trouble being competitive internationally. One reason is the lack of comparative advantage. For example, when a leading Tanzanian cashew nut producer decided to set up a processing facility, it soon went bankrupt as it was less efficient than the cashew processors in India—the only country that had processing facilities in place at that time. The decades of experience had created highly skilled workers and an efficient processing process, with which the Tanzanian business was unable to compete. Other reasons include difficulty in meeting quality standards, particularly of the western markets, and an inability to compete with agricultural products that are heavily subsidized.

These examples, while incomplete, explain in part why there aren’t more agro-processors like the Golden Food Products in Tanzania. To move Tanzania up the value chain and reap more benefits of its untapped agricultural potential, the government should actively pursue policies that will incentivize entrepreneurs to set up farms as well as processing facilities.  This could include, for example, subsidizing nascent industries and removing crop taxes and business fees, which would spur foreign investment. The international community, for its part, should be cognizant of the impact international trade standards can have on agro-processors in less-developed countries.

I developed this J-term opportunity through one of LIDS’ partner organizations, TransFarm Africa at the Aspen Institute.  A scholarship from the Aspen Institute enabled me to spend time in Tanzania and conduct on research the regulatory landscape on agro-processors. This experience demonstrates the value of LIDS as a network, a venue of creativity and new ideas, and a linkage to the professional world of law and development.


Animal Law and the Egyptian Revolution

February 15, 2012 – Joshua Gardner

Will the new sense of freedom, openness, and compassion that has bloomed in the wake of the Egyptian revolution benefit animals as well as humans? On October 31, Professor Kristen Stilt, a visiting professor of Islamic law from Northwestern, offered some answers to this question. Professor Stilt began by discussing Islamic legal rules (including verses of the Quran and suras of the Prophet Muhammad) that relate to animals. These seem, overall, to require compassion toward animals, although dogs are identified as “unclean” in a ritual sense, while cats are labeled “clean.” This requirement of compassion stands in sharp contrast to the situation on the ground in many Muslim-majority countries, where there are few laws on the books to prevent animals from mistreatment, the laws that exist are rarely enforced, and prevailing cultural attitudes tend to objectify animals and treat the idea of “animal rights” as a joke. The result is that work animals are often treated harshly, street dogs are mercilessly abused, and endangered animals are shot for sport by wealthy tourists. Autocratic rulers have repressed the few animal rights groups that exist, like other non-governmental organizations, including by choking off contributions from abroad.

Against this backdrop, the Egyptian revolution has offered both a measure of hope and new challenges. On the positive side, the renewed sense of national pride and civic engagement felt by the Egyptian people has generated an outpouring of support for NGOs like the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals. At the same time, greater willingness to protest perceived injustice has brought demonstrators not only into Tahrir Square, but also to the Giza Zoo, a site of longstanding abuse. On the negative side, however, the recent economic downturn has meant near-starvation for many work animals, including thousands of horses and camels that carry tourists around the pyramids. In addition, the increasing taste of the Egyptian public for meat has encouraged the growth of western-style “factory farming,” which means that Egypt might trade random acts of abuse toward animals for a regimented system of abuse. In all, Professor Stilt’s discussion provided a compelling look at a complex issue that deserves more attention in Egypt and around the world.


LIDS Speaker Series: Careers in Microfinance

November 8, 2011 – Amreeta Mathai

If you’ve been wondering how to embark upon a legal career in microfinance – the perennial hot topic in international development – you’ll be interested to know what the panelists in LIDS’ recent careers event had to say.

The panelists included Austin Choi – General Counsel for Kiva, Deborah Drake – Vice President

at the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International and Jennifer Chien – Policy Consultant at CGAP/World Bank Group. Below you’ll find an edited transcript of the panelists’ responses to questions about their careers and what they look for in prospective employees.

Q: Can you tell us about your organizations?

Choi: Kiva is a personal microlending platform. Our mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. We work with on the ground microfinance institutions. These institutions post their clients’ project profiles on our website and people who visit the website can lend.

Drake: ACCION International is a network non-profit. We work with non-profits, finance companies and other types of finance institutions to support the growth of financial organizations that provide access to credit to low income and impoverished communities around the world.

Chien: The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) is not a microfinance institution. We are more like a think tank for the industry as a whole. We work at the macro level with policy makers and donors. I work on the policy team – it’s a small team of former lawyers who work on the intersection of law and microfinance.

Q: What do you do on a daily basis? How did you prepare for this role?

Choi: I am Kiva’s general counsel. I work on issues of compliance at an organizational and transactional level. This involves working with the microfinance partners internationally. Legal questions could involve issues such as how Dodd-Frank/non-profit/securities regulation laws affect what Kiva is able to do. I also support internal teams. For example, if teams want to use new software, or if we want to set up a new partner in Kenya, I work out the legal logistics. In terms of how I wound up here, I studied development economics in undergrad. Then I started working at a venture capital firm figuring out how to structure deals and how to manage risk. But then I wanted to go back to development and figure out how to apply all this in a development field.

Drake: I look at the supple side of microfinance – what investors are investing in microfinance? I also look at governance issues. 20 years ago, there were no roles for a lawyer at ACCION but now we have four to five lawyers. I have spent a lot of time looking at the enabling environment – what needs to be done to make microfinance institutions grow? I work with governments that are trying to create regulatory environments that encourage microfinance growth. I was at the World Bank and came into microfinance from there. I have a background as a commercial banker.

Chien: Microfinance has evolved substantially in the last decade and I focus on consumer protection issues and branches banking. I am currently a consultant to various projects. For example, I am working on a research publication on disclosure regulations – an aspect of consumer regulations. I am also working with Bank of Namibia to allow deposits from microfinance institutions. I was in management consulting for a few years after undergraduate. Then I worked at the World Council of Credit Unions. After law school, I worked for a firm for a few years – to pay off my loans. Then I had to do a lot of networking and finally made my way to CGAP.

Q: What would you look for from a resume?

Choi: Something that demonstrates a capacity to get a job done with limited resources. Perhaps that you’ve worked with a small team or an organization that is trying to address an issue with limited resources. The reality of working for a non-profit is that you have to pull a rabbit out of a hat with limited resources. Some of the job requires on the ground experience. It depends on the job but banking or internet banking experience can be helpful.

Drake: I echo what Austin said – you should be able to do things relatively quickly with limited resources and work with people who don’t necessarily know what it means to be a lawyer. You will be working with passionate people who are very smart – but you in some ways are getting in their way. It requires patience and flexibility. Working in this environment can be frustrating when you are coming from a corporate law firm.

Chien: We look for regulation CVs and international experience. In the field is always better. Something involving legal analysis is great. There aren’t a ton of positions and the ones available tend to be part time. The policy team isn’t very large and the people on it are very technical. We tend to need technical expertise in a particular topic. Be flexible.


Recap: Honduras: Coups, Constitutions, Commissions and the Future of Reform (Prof. Feldman and Prof. Landau)

October 28, 2011 – Amreeta Mathai

The Law and International Development Society hosted a discussion with Professor Noah Feldman and Professor David Landau about their work as consultants on constitutional reform in Honduras after the 2009 military coup ousting President Manuel Zelaya. The Honduran Truth and Conciliation Commission (TRC) asked Feldman, Landau and a team of HLS affiliates to examine the constitutionality of the actions leading up to Zelaya’s removal.

The Honduran constitution has an unclear provision on Presidential term-limits. The provision has largely been understood to prohibit amendments to the existing term-limits. In 2008, Zelaya issued a series of decrees announcing he would hold a mass non-binding vote about amending the constitution. His opponents understood this as a move to increase his time in office. The Honduran Supreme Court issued orders for him to halt the referendum but he went forward. On June 28th, the military arrived at the president’s house with a warrant alleged to be issued by the Supreme Court. The military put him on a plane to Costa Rica that morning.

In analyzing the constitutionality of the President’s removal, Feldman and Landau concluded that all the relevant actors were at fault. They also emphasized that while these decisions were completely political and lacking in legal analysis as they were carried out, they were later framed as though they were legal decisions.

Interestingly, while the team did produce a report on the situation in Honduras, Professor Feldman noted that their role seemed to have more to do with legitimization of the new regime than anything else. He described the team’s role as socio-political. The new Honduran government needed a TRC because although the political elites had internally consolidated themselves, they were on the outside of the international political community. Why? In the Pre-Cold War era, Latin American coup d’etats were considered business as usual and the international community tended to treat new governments as legitimate. Post-Cold War, however, the international community began to care about whether or not they should recognize new governments.

Feldman contends that constitutional politics in any country in the world is largely about how the elites decide to govern. He understands constitutions to operate such that there is a group of political elites (they could be chosen in any way – rich people, old families, elected, etc.), but the elites have to have some broad consensus among the public. The elites need to have a procedure to validate their design. The function of the TRC was for was to tell the rest of the world was “ok, you can go home now – this is business as usual.”

Further reading:

Feldman, Landau and Sheppard recommend constitutional reforms for Honduras” (Harvard Law School)

Fixing Honduras” (LA Times)

Please Stop Trying to Fix Honduras” (Upside Down World)