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About the World Bank in Justice Reform

The Law and Justice Institutions Thematic Group is a collection of World Bank staff who have a professional interest in advancing the Bank’s justice reform work. Group members are drawn from a diversity of World Bank organizational units that may be involved in designing, implementing, evaluating, or providing information about law and justice reform programs.

This Law and Justice Institutions website is aimed at fostering education, information exchange and programmatic collaborations among World Bank thematic group members, as well as the wider community of justice sector development practitioners around the world.

On behalf of the Law and Justice Institutions Thematic Group, this website is maintained by the Justice Reform Practice Group, a unit of the World Bank’s Legal Vice Presidency.

World Bank Main Complex
Photo: © Ryan Rayburn / World Bank

Justice Systems Matter for Development

A justice system comprises institutions concerned with the peaceful resolution of breaches of law or disputes over citizen rights and obligations. People in all communities aspire to living in a fair society in which power is not exercised arbitrarily and where basic rights are respected. Justice institutions are important in determining the extent to which these societal expectations are realized, including expectations that laws are effectively implemented; and that justice services and processes are fair and accessible to all.

In terms of the World Bank’s programmatic priorities and interests, justice systems have specific instrumental roles in:

  • preventing and mitigating conflict, crime, and violence
  • ensuring executive accountability
  • fostering private sector growth
  • ensuring compliance of private sector actors and citizens with legal and regulatory frameworks.

The World Bank Activities in Justice Reform

Since the early 1990s, the World Bank has funded more than 30 major loan projects, valued at over $850 million, dedicated specifically to assisting developing countries in establishing efficient and effective justice systems. Hundreds of smaller justice improvement activities have been funded over the same period as components of Bank loan projects in many sectors.

World Bank justice reform projects are usually concerned with producing improvements in the performance of justice institutions, focused primarily on improving the performance of courts. Most of these projects have supported training for justice sector actors, not only in courts, but also in specialist tribunals, ministries of justice, bar associations and legal aid entities. Some projects have pursued a particular development need within the justice sector, such as commercial courts, enforcement process improvement or insolvency offices. Others have addressed the law-making process. And most have included activities dedicated to ensuring that citizens have access to laws and court decisions.

The Bank’s lending activities have been complemented by grants and research activities, which have supported analytical and advisory work in relation to anti-corruption agencies, ombudsman offices, legal aid and legal empowerment, and the protection of basic rights. The Justice for the Poor Program, for example, is a trust fund World Bank program that supports research and operational innovation around the themes of access to justice, service delivery and natural resources governance.

World Bank Group units particularly active in justice reform include:

Justice Reform Practice Group 
Part of the World Bank’s Legal Vice-Presidency, the role of this group is to generate knowledge about justice reform programming and to provide advice and assistance in that field to Bank staff and member countries. The Legal Vice Presidency also administers the Justice for the Poor Program.

Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network 
The Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network contributes to the design of global and country policies and the building of institutions to achieve inclusive growth in developing countries. The network incorporates regionally focused justice practice groups that regularly lead public sector reform and justice projects, such as the Justice Reform Practice Group for Europe and Central Asia.

Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Group 
The Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Group coordinates the World Bank’s response to states facing situations of fragility or grappling with conflicts. The group develops and implements the Bank’s agenda on conflict and fragility across the organization, in particular, the World Bank’s response to the plight of people in fragile and conflict-affected situations identified in the World Development Report 2011.

Investment Climate Advisory Services
Investment Climate Advisory Services of the World Bank Group assists client governments in implementing reforms to improve the investment climate. Its focus is on improving the policies, laws, and regulations that affect investors and influence their decision to invest, including contract enforcement regulation as a result of World Bank’s annual Doing Business reports and the compilation of indicators on foreign investment regulation via the Investing Across Borders initiative.

Social Development Network
The Social Cohesion and Violence Prevention team of the Social Development Network seeks to gather and disseminate knowledge and innovative approaches in addressing the pressing challenges of social cohesion. SDN’s work encompasses crime and violence prevention through justice institutions.

Development Economics
The Development Economics Vice-Presidency seeks to increase understanding of development policies and programs by providing intellectual leadership and analytical services to the Bank and the development community. This group is the research and data arm of the World Bank; whose work encompasses research in justice reform.

Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR)
The Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative is a partnership between the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that supports international efforts to end safe havens for corrupt funds. StAR works with developing countries and financial centers to prevent the laundering of the proceeds of corruption and to facilitate the systematic and timely return of stolen assets.

Financial & Private Sector Development
With the World Bank Group’s Financial and Private Sector Development unit is a Financial Market Integrity group, which supports client countries in strengthening the integrity of their financial sectors. The group undertakes prosecutorial training and support to justice institutions as part of the Bank’s anti-money laundering and stolen assets recovery work.

Integrity Vice Presidency 
The World Bank Group’s Integrity Vice Presidency is the independent arm of the Bank responsible for investigating allegations of fraud and corruption in connection with Bank-financed projects. This group incorporates a preventive service unit, which regularly supports capacity building initiatives in justice agencies and other public institutions.

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Last updated: 2012-03-09

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