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World Bank Support for Criminal Justice Activities

In recent years, our member countries have shown growing interest in Bank support toward improved governance in the criminal justice sector. Requests have been presented for the Bank to become involved in various aspects of criminal justice. While justice reform has long been recognized as forming part of the Bank’s mandate, integral both to equitable and sustainable development and the reduction of poverty, it is only more recently that member countries have asked the Bank to become involved in the criminal justice sector as a continuation of its overall justice reform work.

In response, the World Bank Group General Counsel has prepared the Legal Note on Bank Involvement in the Criminal Justice Sector and Staff Guidance Note: World Bank Support for Criminal Justice Activities. Criminal justice reform complements Bank work in several sectors. Bank member countries working on natural resource management find they must address their ability to investigate and try environmental crimes in order to be effective; countries confronting crime and violence as a priority development challenge seek assistance from the Bank in areas such as urban crime prevention. The Bank can work within its comparative advantage in criminal justice reform, and partner with other organizations in areas outside our mandate or expertise.

The Legal Note clarifies that Bank interventions in the criminal justice sector are not precluded if:

a) a proposed intervention is grounded in an appropriate and objective economic rationale       and

b) the intervention is structured so as to avoid interference in the political affairs of a member  country.

The Guidance Note was developed in consultation across the Bank and reviewed by the Operational Vice-Presidents, in order to provide guidance for staff in applying the Legal Note for Bank activities.

In order to provide teams with a resource for identifying and managing potential risks of engagement in the criminal justice sector, a Criminal Justice Resource Group (CJRG) is being created. This group is comprised of experts from across the Bank in such areas as justice reform, crime and violence prevention, environmental crimes, urban planning, youth development, gender, stolen asset recovery, anti-money laundering, fragile and conflict-affected states.

In addition, a series of training events and brown bag seminars will be held for interested staff members and a dedicated page on the Law and Justice Institutions web site will provide updates on new information, training events and related resources. All staff and managers with an interest in justice sector work and criminal justice sector work in particular are invited to participate and learn more on how to apply the new enabling environment for criminal justice in the Bank to operational work.

Last updated: 2012-03-09

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