UN Rule of Law Engagement in Post Conflict States – Where Now?

By Claudia Newman-Martin, PCJ Academic Year Fellow, MPP 2015

Visiting Fellow' Discusses Rule of Law:  On Wednesday, November 14th the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) invited David Marshall, a Visiting Fellow with the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School (HLS), to speak to a group of interested researchers, students, and practitioners as well as members of the HKS Criminal Justice Professional Interest Council (PIC) about the United Nation's (UN) engagement with, and promotion of, the rule of law. 

Promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels is at the heart of the United Nations’ mission. It is also a principle that is embedded throughout the Charter of the United Nations and most constitutions of national states. But there is much friction among Member States as to the definition of the rule of law, with assertions of hidden agendas. In addition, there is mounting skepticism among donors and international organizations regarding rule of law promotion. There is scant evidence of success, partly due to a failure to prioritize, identify relevant skills and expertise. But it's more than this - there has been no discussion re the end-game - what is the primary purpose of international rule of law work and what are realistic deliverables in post-conflict states?

David Marshall (HLS ’02 LL.M) is on a UN sabbatical examining the UN's role in criminal justice reform efforts in post-conflict states, and recently returned from South Sudan where he was acting director of the Rule of Law and Security Institutions Support Office in the UN Mission in South Sudan. He has previously worked in Kosovo and helped to create the UN Rule of Law Indicators. At this event he candidly described the challenges the rule of law 'industry' faces in giving meaning and substance to rule of law principles. His seminar focused on the particular challenges taken on in post-conflict or fragile states. Marshall led an engaging and informative discussion about what a functioning justice system should look like in a fragile state: What the minimum content of justice contains and how we go about achieving justice-sector goals. Marshall's immense experience and unique perspective was widely appreciated by all who attended the seminar. Participants left feeling better informed, more strongly inspired and grateful for the opportunity to have benefitted from David's insights.

Marshall has extensive policy and operational experience with the United Nations, co-managing the largest rule of law initiative in the UN, the creation of the UN Rule of Law Indicators. He also developed a series of UN rule of law policy tools for post-conflict states, focusing on national prosecutions of mass crimes and best practices relating to truth commissions and vetting. In addition to South Sudan, Mr. Marshall has been the legal advisor to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal, acting legal advisor to the OHCHR Special Envoy on Darfur and Senior Human Rights Advisor to the UN leadership in Kosovo. Prior to joining the UN, Mr. Marshall was a criminal law litigator in the UK and the US. He is a member of the Bar of England and Wales, the New York Bar and the U.S Supreme Court bar. His pro bono work includes acting as legal consultant to Amnesty International on US criminal justice issues, including the death penalty.

October 2012 seminar with David Marshall, Visting Fellow, on Rule of Law

This event is co-sponsored by:

Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management
HKS Criminal Justice Student Professional Interest Council (PIC)