Governments and international organizations must either work together across agencies and organizations to approach reforms holistically, or streamline agencies. For example, the World Bank is not engaged in police reform – but if it wanted to strengthen the rule of law in a country, it could look for a partner who could take law enforcement action. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress has imposed significant restrictions on military police training and has largely prevented USAID from training police officers, resulting in a plethora of agencies that each have a piece of the rule of law puzzle but often work poorly together. Tightening could improve the effect. It would have to deal with supposedly short-term political needs stemming from long-term improvements in the rule of law, often advocated by USAID, that senior diplomats or Pentagon officials appreciate. America`s commitment to the rule of law means that the same laws apply to every citizen, applied in a fair trial, to peacefully resolve disputes. To ensure accountability, countries and organizations delivering aid can require very detailed budget reports after funds have been spent, not before, and take more rigorous measures that examine impacts and results – not meaningless results. The first generation of modern rule of law reforms focused on technocratic agendas that changed laws and institutions for make it look like those of the West. Reformers built new courthouses, provided police equipment, rewrote laws, and purchased computers to help judges manage their cases.
But as urgent as it seems that these interventions are needed, reformers have found that they rarely lead to sustainable rule of law reforms. Even before the United States was a nation, there was a debate among settlers that laws should govern a new nation, not individuals, including kings or queens, as they had seen in Britain and other countries. A settler, Thomas Paine, produced a pamphlet called Common Sense in 1776, and it has become a bestseller by today`s standards. He described how “in America, the law is queen.” Improving the rule of law in other countries is essential to various Western foreign policy objectives. The rule of law creates a relationship between a state and its citizens in which power, violence, and impunity are limited: the government is subject to the law and must rule by law. Citizens are equal before the law, and prominent leaders of business, commerce, and politics are not above the law. Human rights are respected both in statutory laws and in their implementation. Citizens have access to effective dispute resolution to prevent vigilant justice and allow trade to flourish. And there is an acceptable level of law and order.
The most dangerous laws are those designed to protect the government from harm or increase its power for itself. Certain laws of statist principle are necessary: laws against treason and espionage, for example, are essential to the stability of the government. But statist laws of principle can also be dangerous. Such laws that limit criticism of the government, such as flag-burning laws that prohibit the desecration of symbols reminiscent of the government, can easily lead to a politically oppressive society full of imprisoned dissidents and frightened citizens who are afraid to speak out. No country can defend a society based on the rule of law if its people do not respect the law. Everyone must commit to respecting laws, judicial authorities, legal signage and courts. Imagine if everyone in your community decided they didn`t want to be bothered by traffic rules and signals, for example. The streets of your community would quickly become a chaotic and less safe place. Police officers may be overwhelmed trying to improve the situation or ignored altogether. Streamline agencies to collaborate more effectively and coordinate work among the different elements of the legal system in countries with economies in transition. When police arrest criminals but corrupt courts release them, the rule of law fails. The same is true when police cannot make arrests due to outdated laws, or when laws, courts and police function but prisons provide fertile ground for gangs.
In many governments and international organizations, however, work on police, courts, prisons and other elements of the rule of law is isolated. Countries do not have the rule of law, not because they are not aware of technical legal problems or because they are too poor to buy the right equipment. On the contrary, they have poorly trained government institutions and not enough money because powerful and hostile interests in these countries steal state assets, underfund necessary goods, or actively work to undermine the rule of law – and the local culture is not strong enough to stop these practices. These problems are neither new nor disappearing. The United States alone has been trying to improve the domestic rule of law in other countries for more than a century, since the days when it created police forces in several Latin American states to reduce civil wars in the decades following the Mexican-American War. Modern rule of law programmes began to multiply in number and expenditure after the cold war. Today, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private and non-profit entrepreneurs, international organizations such as the World Bank, and bilateral donors from the United Kingdom to Japan are working on rule of law reforms. In the United States, the government, seven ministries and 28 agencies, offices and offices have worked on rule of law issues in more than 184 countries.