Advocating data-driven Judicial Reform in India

Posted on September 2nd, by Ameya Naik in LIDS LIVE. No Comments

I have worked this summer with The Takshashila Institution, a public policy think-tank in India. Part of my work included co-authoring a policy brief on judicial reforms. The brief is under review for publication, but the subject has become very topical: the Supreme Court recently turned down the idea of operating “Fast Track Courts” to resolve cases against elected Parliamentarians against whom criminal cases are pending, preferring instead to place the burden on the Executive to not elevate such persons to important Ministerial assignments.

Fast Track Courts were initiated, originally, as an experimental solution to the considerable (and growing) backlog of unresolved cases pending before all levels of the judiciary in India. Constituted with funding from the central government, they have proved a qualified success, demonstrating a disposal rate considerably higher than ordinary courts at the same level. Since they are only a procedural innovation, working with the same personnel and no new facts on record, this has prompted concerns that such cases are at higher risk for wrongful conviction and miscarriage of justice. Nowhere is this criticism more pronounced than in the resort to Fast Track Courts for tackling crimes against women.

That move, in turn, is part of a broader set of … Read More »

The Freedom of Information, Development, and LIDS Global’s 2014-2015 Research Project

Posted on August 7th, by Chris Crawford in LIDS LIVE. No Comments

Transparency is a foundational element of development—without it, the citizens of emerging economies cannot participate in keeping their governments and markets fair and accountable. Of course, governments and market participants are also entitled to a measure of privacy. The trick is in finding the balance, both in substantive law and in fact. In 2014-2015, LIDS Global is going to organize an international research effort to explore this balance.

LIDS Global, as was noted in this blog just a few weeks ago, is this organization’s effort to build partnerships with like-minded student groups all around the world. Our 2013-2014 pilot project was highly successful; LIDS Global coordinated teams from around the world as they explored the link between corruption and development. The finished work will be published later this month.

Building on this success, our 2014-2015 research will focus on the Freedom of Information and its role in development; specifically, how can citizens all around the world use Freedom of Information laws to deter corruption in government officials? In fact, our idea to explore this topic is partly a result of the 2013-2014 research: students from the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka identified … Read More »

Do communities affected by internationally financed projects have access to remedies?

Posted on July 21st, by hlids in LIDS LIVE. No Comments

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 »

South Sudan’s Three Year Anniversary: No Cause for Celebration

Posted on July 14th, by Ishita Kala in LIDS LIVE. No Comments

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

Posted on July 8th, by Akhila Kolisetty in LIDS LIVE. No Comments

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 continued to entertain patriarchal beliefs and norms about keeping families together … Read More »