Rule of Law Collaborative awarded $5 million grant to provide governmental training

Posted on: 10/2/2014; Updated on: 2/10/2015
By Peggy Binette, 803-777-7704

The global unrest spreading across countries and regions of the world – from Ukraine to Syria and Iraq to Hong Kong – underscores the vital work of a University of South Carolina center working to provide long-term solutions to the upheaval.

On Wednesday (Oct. 1) the university announced that its Rule of Law Collaborative, which works with U.S. government agencies on rule of law development and reform to the justice sector, has been awarded a grant of approximately $5 million from the U.S. Department of State.

The research and training grant will help U.S. government officials to provide rule of law support in fragile and post-conflict states.

“This grant positions the Rule of Law Collaborative as the premier center in the country for interagency cooperation on the rule of law,” says Joel Samuels, newly appointed director of the collaborative and a professor of international law. “We have a proven track record in this area. Over the next five years, we hope to work with more than 1,000 mid- and senior-level officials from the State Department, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, U.S. Agency for International Development and other major governmental agencies.”

To understand the importance of the collaborative’s work is to understand rule of law itself. A country abides by rule of law when, among other things, its government officials are accountable under the law, the laws are fair, equally applied and protect the rights of citizens, and justice is delivered timely by a competent, ethical and independent body, Samuels says.

“Building rule of law is not just about creating laws and legal institutions,” Samuels says. “It involves educating citizens, ensuring access to justice as well as to food and potable water, guaranteeing rights for women and children, strengthening public health and reducing corruption. It touches on every aspect of life. Without rule of law – democratic or not – states are bound to fail.”

Samuels says the key to building rule of law in a fragile and post-conflict state is to focus on long-term development and not short-term outcomes.

Third-year law student John Wall knows this well. Wall, a former U.S. Army captain and West Point graduate, spent five combat deployments between 2007 and 2012 -- one in Iraq and four in Afghanistan. His tour in Iraq and first tour in Afghanistan involved building rule of law in war-torn areas. In Afghanistan Wall worked with local governments in Helmand Province to help local elders establish a police force after ousting the Taliban.

“We needed to set up a meaningful local government among diverse groups and interests to make sure that all of the work we had just done did not disappear with a vacuum of power that would allow the Taliban to return,” Wall says.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a JAG officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserves who, like Wall, has experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a vocal advocate for rule of law. Graham was instrumental to the university’s launch of the Rule of Law Collaborative in 2010.

Samuels calls Graham’s ongoing commitment to the ideal of rule of law a driving force behind efforts to improve the capacity of U.S. officials involved in rule of law work on the ground.

University President Harris Pastides calls rule of law one of the great pillars of civilization.

“It is gratifying that the U.S. Department of State has recognized USC’s deep commitment and contributions to the Rule of Law—one of the great pillars of a civilized society. This collaboration will only deepen our commitment to a global community where justice and the rule of law prevail,” says Pastides.

For the past four years the university’s Rule of Law Collaborative has conducted research and developed and led training programs tailored to U.S. government agencies, non-profits and corporations and the academic community around the world. The collaborative also has supported academic research that explores questions of relevance to policymakers. Initially the collaborative was housed in the university's Walker Institute for International and Area Studies. Today it is a stand alone unit that reaches across disciplines.

“We have more than 50 faculty members with strengths that help bolster rule of law,” says Samuels, who has experience working in fragile nations including Russia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Cambodia. “This grant will allow the university to harness its collective expertise to assist the U.S. government and, in turn, enhance our own core strengths by interacting with government officials who will deliver these important programs on the ground.”

The 5-year grant of $4,869,522 begins in October; training programs will start this fall. The research and training grant was awarded by the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs - Office of Criminal Justice and Assistance Partnerships (INL/CAP).


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