Rule of Law Initiatives at the World Bank

I recently came across a tweet from Paul Scott Prettitore about some Rule of Law work that he was doing in the Middle East. While the work that he was doing was not a surprise, that he was doing it on behalf of the World Bank. As I wasn’t even aware that the World Bank was involved in Rule of Law initiatives, I contacted Paul and he was gracious enough to take the time to discuss what he does.

Progressive Lawyer: A lot of people may be surprised that the World Bank is involved in Rule of Law initiatives when their mission is the reduction of poverty. Can you briefly describe what kind of work they do in this area and how they see this as part of their mission?

Paul Scott Prettitore: Yes, I was surprised myself when I was first approached by a friend at the Bank to help with one of his programs. The Bank has viewed rule of law through a number of lenses, including the links between the rule of law and economic growth. It has also acknowledged the importance of the rule of law in terms of quality of institutions, and its role in promoting good governance, namely accountability, transparency and delivery of public services. Building the capacity of justice sector institutions has been a core component of broader work on public sector reform. More recently there has been additional focus on the rule of law and the promotion of intangible wealth, such as social capital and human development. For me, the rule of law and associated work building justice sector institutions is very much a cross-cutting issue within the Bank, touching upon many of its major areas of activities, including poverty, social protection, private sector development and social development.

PL: What is the JUSTPAL network?

PSP: My colleague Amit Mukherjee is leading this work. It is primarily a community of practice to share experience and knowledge for practitioners in the rule of law in the Bank’s Europe and Central Asia region. We are now trying to link this work with the Middle East and North Africa region as well.

PL: What is your background and how did you become employed by the World Bank?

Paul Scott Prettitore
Paul Scott Prettitore

PSP: I came to the Bank mostly by accident, in that it was never planned. I never considered it as a place to work, thinking it was only for economists. And given my background I was always a bit suspicious of the Bank. I started my career in Bosnia in 1998, working on human rights, refugee and land restitution issues at the Office of the High Representative and then OSCE. My area of focus in law school was human rights and humanitarian law. My big plan was to find a job at ICRC and write about violations of humanitarian law. I very much enjoyed the human rights and refugee work in Bosnia. One of the more interesting aspects of the work was meeting often with refugees and victims of human rights abuses. While they were generally interested in exercising their rights, there was also a strong interest in economic and social development. People wanted their rights, but they also wanted good opportunities for themselves, and better ones for their children, in terms of employment, education and healthcare. This sparked my interest in broader development issues.

While working in Bosnia a friend who worked at the Bank in its Jerusalem office asked if I could provide an analysis of land expropriation procedures in the West Bank for a study he was conducting. This led to requests for some analysis of legal frameworks and evaluation of a judicial reform program with the Palestinian Authority. After several trips to Jerusalem, the Bank’s Country Director asked if I would be interested in moving there and taking a longer-term position with them. As he put it ‘usually the Bank lawyers are all in Washington, but it has been useful having you here’. I never planned to stay at the Bank longer-term, thinking opportunities for lawyers to work on substantive issues would be limited. But I’ve always managed to have interesting work. It can be frustrating at times to be in an institution where rule of law and justice sector reform are not the utmost priorities. However, the Bank is a large organization with much expertise and huge resources, and if you can direct just a bit of them to issues you think important the impact can be very rewarding.

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