United States Institute of Peace

International Network for Economics and Conflict

Closing the Transition Gap: The Rule of Law Imperative in Stabilization Environments

Written by Brock Dahl

Expeditionary Economics addresses means for properly enabling private sector led growth in transitional environments. In order to invest and grow, the private sector requires some modicum of stability and institutional reliability. Transitional environments, however, are often typified by a political economy within which powerful nonstate actors develop inappropriate alliances with state officials and run illicit enterprises that violate the rights of their fellow citizens and suffocate licit entrepreneurial growth. Where essential stabilization steps required to fight these alliances are neglected, a “transition gap” arises, and the state, increasingly viewed by its citizens as corrupt and ineffective, loses legitimacy. This paper argues that stabilizing forces have strategic, moral, and legal obligations to immediately establish effective rule of law institutions in the wake of interventions. More specifically, stabilizing forces must establish (or support) institutions that are capable of preventing, investigating, and punishing corruption and criminality. To date, these obligations have not been adequately recognized or resourced.

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Comment #1

This could not be more true -- free markets are wonderful mechanisms for allocating resources, but that allocation is for naught if armed gangs can extort or capture resources by force, not markets.  Markets quickly are taken over by mafias if institutions to provide effective rule of law are lacking, and the formal state soon loses its authority to such mafias.

      But it is harder than it seems to create effective rule of law, as outsiders will be suspect, and can't establish rule of law by themselves.  Only by working with diaspora and local forces who know the society and can adapt to its needs can reliable institutions be established.  Rule of law will have to be suited to local circumstances, where '2nd best' if it works may be more effective than developed world ideal standards.