Foreign Assistance:

Promoting Judicial Reform to Strengthen Democracies

NSIAD-93-149: Published: Sep 1, 1993. Publicly Released: Sep 1, 1993.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Benjamin F. Nelson
(202) 512-4128
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed U.S. efforts to improve the administration of justice in developing countries, focusing on the: (1) lessons learned from 10 years of judicial reform experience in Latin America; and (2) U.S. government's management approach to judicial reform in the new democratic countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

GAO found that: (1) most judicial reform efforts in Latin America have experienced serious problems, but the Agency for International Development (AID) has had success in drawing attention to the need for improved justice systems; (2) the most valuable lessons learned from judicial reform efforts in Latin America include the need to obtain the host country's commitment to the program and address political and systemic obstacles to success, the importance of impact evaluations for sound project management decisions, sufficient embassy support, and the need for experienced staff; (3) AID is applying some of the lessons learned to new programs in Colombia and El Salvador; (4) AID continues to support the Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of the Offender (ILANUD) despite its poor performance and the lessening need for a regional approach to judicial reform; (5) the United States is focusing on short-term goals for judicial reform programs in Central and Eastern Europe; (6) the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) is unsure what impact U.S. assistance will have, since the United States has not assessed the long-term needs of Central and East European countries or developed long-term goals and strategies for meeting those needs; and (7) the agencies managing the project have not established lines of authority and responsibility among themselves, resulting in poor oversight and coordination and in-country and embassy staff being left out of decisionmaking.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The State Department participates in an interagency working group led by AID to coordinate Rule of Law programs and supports the actions identified by AID to address this recommendation.

    Recommendation: Where appropriate, the Secretary of State, the Administrator, AID, and the Director, USIA, should apply the lessons learned from judicial reform programs in Latin America to future judicial reform programs. This includes: (1) ensuring that host countries are receptive to change before initiating large programs; (2) addressing political and institutional obstacles along with addressing technical problems; (3) ensuring that impact evaluations are used in making decisions about continuing the programs or projects; (4) ensuring that the entire U.S. country team in the recipient country is supportive of the program; and (5) ensuring that the programs are staffed with sufficient experienced personnel.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has developed policy guidelines and initiated actions that essentially implement the recommendations. AID has adopted a strategic framework for setting Rule of Law priorities and designing projects. Projects now include performance indicators, which AID uses to evaluate success and make funding decisions. Furthermore, AID encourages a country team approach led by the ambassador to insure coordination.

    Recommendation: Where appropriate, the Secretary of State, the Administrator, AID, and the Director, USIA, should apply the lessons learned from judicial reform programs in Latin America to future judicial reform programs. This includes: (1) ensuring that host countries are receptive to change before initiating large programs; (2) addressing political and institutional obstacles along with addressing technical problems; (3) ensuring that impact evaluations are used in making decisions about continuing the programs or projects; (4) ensuring that the entire U.S. country team in the recipient country is supportive of the program; and (5) ensuring that the programs are staffed with sufficient experienced personnel.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USIA participates in the interagency working group led by AID to coordinate Rule of Law programs and supports the actions identified by AID in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: Where appropriate, the Secretary of State, the Administrator, AID, and the Director, USIA, should apply the lessons learned from judicial reform programs in Latin America to future judicial reform programs. This includes: (1) ensuring that host countries are receptive to change before initiating large programs; (2) addressing political and institutional obstacles along with addressing technical problems; (3) ensuring that impact evaluations are used in making decisions about continuing the programs or projects; (4) ensuring that the entire U.S. country team in the recipient country is supportive of the program; and (5) ensuring that the programs are staffed with sufficient experienced personnel.

    Agency Affected: United States Information Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID agreed to extend ILANUD funding for an additional year ($317,000). In response to GAO inquiries, the Director of LAC/DI stated that ILANUD would not receive additional funds from the division to finance core management activities. AID has given permission to individual missions to use ILANUD for Rule of Law projects as determined by the missions. The Director, LAC/DI, reiterated that ILANUD does some things very well and they will probably continue to be contracted by the mission to provide judicial training and develop curriculum.

    Recommendation: Since numerous AID assessments show that ILANUD has not accomplished its objectives, the Administrator, AID, should determine whether all U.S. funding support for ILANUD should be immediately terminated or phased out on an orderly basis.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The State Department participates in an interagency working group led by AID to coordinate Rule of Law Programs and supports the actions identified by AID to address this recommendation.

    Recommendation: With respect to judicial reform in Central and Eastern Europe, the Secretary of State, as coordinator for all programs in that region, should clarify the appropriate roles of participating agencies, including the U.S. embassies, to improve efficiency and coordination. If a decision is made to expand administration of justice programs in that region, then: (1) the long-term judicial reform needs of each country should be assessed before additional funds are committed; (2) strategic plans for meeting these needs should be developed; and (3) the coordinator's office should ensure that State, USIA, and AID projects are consistent with these plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 27, 2016

Sep 22, 2016

Sep 20, 2016

Sep 7, 2016

Aug 31, 2016

Aug 25, 2016

Aug 15, 2016

Jul 14, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here