In This Review

The International Rule of Law Movement: A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward (Human Rights Program Series)
The International Rule of Law Movement: A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward (Human Rights Program Series)
Edited by David Marshall
Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School, 2014, 322 pp

During the last two decades, promoting the rule of law has become a global industry. Well-financed activists, governments, and international organizations have championed the cause, touting improved rule of law as a way to reduce poverty, secure human rights, and prevent conflict. All the contributors to this volume affirm the importance of promoting the rule of law in troubled and transitional societies, using tools such as foreign aid and technical assistance. Some argue that international experts need to spend more time grappling with issues of justice in aid-receiving countries and adapting their plans to local cultural and political circumstances. Others caution that there are severe limits to what can be achieved by outsiders. In his contribution, Marshall offers a hard-hitting assessment of the UN’s rule-of-law programs, which he deems unrealistically ambitious. The book’s overall message seems quite sensible: if promoting the rule of law has become an industry, that industry needs to tailor its product to local markets, listen to its consumers, remain flexible, learn from its mistakes, and assume it will be in the business for the long term.