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Promoting Rule of Law in a Turbulent World: Challenges for US Foreign Policy

Taught By: Gordon B. Smith

A major challenge confronting the U.S. and other international actors in transitional, fragile and post-conflict states is the creation of legal institutions for insuring order, preventing crime, and dispensing justice.

Legal institutions must be created expeditiously to prevent the emergence of organized criminal groups, vigilantism, and terrorist activity. It is also important is to create mechanisms for resolving commercial disputes, protecting property rights, and promoting internationally recognized human rights. All of these elements are essential for developing a legal environment conducive to foreign investment and domestic legitimacy and support by the population. Moreover, the promotion of rule of law in transitional and post-conflict zones must be undertaken with due deference to traditional, customary, and religious legal norms and institutions. This course examines these complex aspects of promoting rule of law in turbulent regions and the challenges they pose to U.S. foreign policy.

This course will provide an overview to the origins and development of rule of law in Western and non-Western cultures, and its relationship to human rights and democracy. We will survey rule of law “lessons learned” from cases as wide-ranging as the former USSR, Iraq and Afghanistan. We will then apply those “lessons learned” to assess current developments in North Africa, the Middle East, China and elsewhere. Topics to be covered include reconciling rule of law with traditional and religious cultural norms, anti-corruption measures, combating narcotics production and trafficking, promotion of gender rights and other human rights, working with NGOs and IGOs, resolving land and water disputes, post-conflict reconciliation and distributive justice.

Teaching Format: The course will be taught with a mix of formats to enhance the range of learning objectives for students and to break up the class routine. Sessions will include discussion and lecture, but will also incorporate analyses of case studies and policy evaluations undertaken in smaller groups, and undertake some role-playing exercises that confront students with making difficult policy and programmatic choices related to rule of law promotion in transitional, fragile and post-conflict states. Topical readings will be assigned for most class sessions and students are expected to have read the assigned material in advance of each class in order to be able to fully participate in class discussions.