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IUAES 2013: Evolving Humanity, Emerging Worlds. 5-10 August 2013.

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Evolving humanity, emerging worlds

Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013


Legal pluralism in the practice of development agencies: towards an empirical understanding of current approaches (IUAES Commission on Legal Pluralism)

Location University Place 4.212
Date and Start Time 06 Aug, 2013 at 11:00


Giselle Corradi (Ghent University) email
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Short Abstract

Development actors are increasingly interested in non-state justice. This panel will examine these agencies' approaches to legal pluralism in Africa from a legal anthropological and empirical angle. We welcome contributions which critically analyze actual practices beyond standardized lessons learnt

Long Abstract

International development aid always influences the existing legal relationships and changes the conditions under which people might make use of their rights. This is particularly true for those projects or programmes which explicitly aim at the promotion of the rule of law, good governance and justice or are subject to conditionality. International development agencies become thus increasingly aware of the critical impact of legal pluralism on the success of their conventional project approaches and try framing new and more inclusive programme designs by referring to customary, non-state or informal justice providers. This trend is particularly accentuated in the African context, where development actors also grapple with the lack of capacity of many African states to provide the population with basic justice services. These interventions are varied in scope and nature. They include legal and institutional reforms, capacity building for justice users and providers and a range of strategies to improve compliance with human rights within dispute management at local level. While a growing body of normative literature provides guidelines on how international agencies can take account of legal pluralism, this panel aims at examining international development agencies' approaches to legal pluralism in Africa from a legal anthropological and empirical point of view. Contributions which critically examine actual practices on the ground and go beyond simple and standardized lessons learnt that are just shifted from one spot to the other, are warmly welcomed.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Why international agencies struggle to come to terms with legal pluralism

Author: Tillmann Schneider  email
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Short Abstract

Legal pluralism is not a new phenomenon. Still, development agencies struggle to come to terms with the challenges involved. The paper describes such challenges and highlights some of the obstacles to mainstreaming legal pluralism into development practice.

Long Abstract

While "legal pluralism" as a buzzword can be found in almost all recent papers on development cooperation in the justice sector few concrete answers exist that help engaging with the challenges that legal pluralist contexts pose.

The proposed paper will describe the obstacles to mainstream legal pluralism into programme designs and implementing practices both from a practical as well as from a theoretical perspective. The former focuses on my experiences as a project manager for GIZ's programme "Promoting the Rule of Law and Justice in Sierra Leone" and highlights the difficulties implementing agencies face when acting with (state) partner institutions and on behalf of donors. The latter goes beyond this context and suggests that the complexity and the "politics" of legal pluralist settings conflict with the logics of contemporary development cooperation.

Advancing Human Rights in Legally Plural Africa: The Role of Development Actors in the Justice Sector

Author: Giselle Corradi (Ghent University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper analyses how development actors providing aid to the justice sector in sub-Saharan Africa have so far approached the promotion of human rights in legally plural contexts and in relationship to local legal orders.

Long Abstract

In recent years, development actors providing aid to the justice sector in sub-Saharan Africa started to consider how legal pluralism can advance access to justice. In this context, one of the areas that these actors address is the relationship between human rights and local legal orders. Based on empirical research on the main kinds of strategy employed for this purpose in different countries of this region, this paper argues that interventions tend to overlook four important issues. First, the multi-layered nature of local legal orders. Secondly, the modes of dispute processing that local legal actors resort to. Third, the existence of local knowledge that may contribute to the understanding and realization of human rights. And finally, how these interventions can lead to a more critical and inclusive understanding of international standards.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


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