The Flawed U.S. Approach to Rule of Law Development Academic Article uri icon


  • The key flaw to the United States' approach to rule of law development is routinely including the "standard menu" of rule of law development assistance as a part of the overall development effort without regard to whether the recipient country is at a developmental stage where it is able to absorb some or all of this type of aid. This article uses Afghanistan as a case study. Despite a decade of assistance, Afghanistan remains a fragile and conflict-affected country, thus raising concerns about the value of the aid given and whether rule of law development aid should continue to be a part of the standard aid package in similarly situated countries. This article also reports the results of a small-scale survey of rule of law development workers in Afghanistan who were universally critical of rule of law development efforts in Afghanistan. This article concludes that the experience in Afghanistan demonstrates the need to change how the United States approaches rule of law development assistance. The United States should no longer routinely include rule of law development assistance in developmental aid packages. Instead, the United States should analyze the current conditions in a particular country and determine whether that country is ready for rule of law development assistance. This analysis should consider economic, political, and social development, and whether the country is currently in armed conflict. Depending on the level of development, it might make better sense for limited rule of law assistance. In some countries, it might be better to provide no rule of law assistance and instead to focus on other development goals and advocate for rule of law development at a political level.

published proceedings

  • Penn State Law Review

author list (cited authors)

  • Alkon, C

complete list of authors

  • Alkon, Cynthia

publication date

  • January 2013