INL Work in the Field of Justice

For over 37 years, INL has been actively strengthening fragile states, supporting democratic transitions, and stabilizing conflict-affected societies by helping partner countries develop effective and accountable criminal justice sector institutions and systems.

For INL, the term “justice sector” encompasses core institutions and actors involved in the prosecution, defense, and adjudication of criminal matters, e.g., the judiciary and court system, prosecutorial services, criminal defense counsel, legal assistance providers (including civil society), government entities such as the Ministry of Justice, and the legal framework in which they operate.

The primary objectives of INL’s justice sector assistance are to strengthen foundational elements of foreign criminal justice systems to address shared threats, promote human rights, and provide fair and equal justice to all citizens, as well as to assist foreign criminal justice institutions in fragile states, helping prevent conflict and promoting resilience and stability. INL is further guided by a set of principles, including national ownership, a contextual and whole-of-system approach, citizen engagement, and sustainability. These principles are laid out in the INL Guide to Justice Sector Assistance.

INL works with partner countries to strengthen criminal justice systems so they are accountable, uphold law and order, and are responsive to citizen needs. Together, they play a vital role in combating transnational threats such as organized crime, corruption, cybercrime, terrorism, violent conflict, and trafficking in persons and other illicit trade. Systems that lack functioning and accountable justice systems provide fertile ground for social discord and extremism, corruption, instability, criminality, and citizen insecurity. In today’s interlinked world, those effects can easily spill over borders and damage the interests of the United States and other countries around the world.

Based on the particular needs, challenges, and priorities of INL’s partner countries, INL programs often include assistance focused on:

  • Taking a whole of systems approach to reform;
  • Building increased access to justice through strengthening justice sector institutions;
  • Building justice sector capacity to tackle complex crimes;
  • Enhancing criminal defense efforts and access to justice;
  • Strengthening the legal profession; and
  • Building the capacity of civil society.

INL undertakes bilateral justice sector assistance in partnership with U.S. federal, state, and local justice sector actors and institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations, including academic institutions. In addition, INL engages actively in multilateral organizations to shape global standards, norms, and policy commitments on criminal justice, including through the United Nations and other global and regional forums. For example, INL was heavily involved in ensuring

the adoption in 2012 of the UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems (A/RES/67/187). Since then, the United States has been an outspoken advocate for its implementation through diplomatic engagement and programmatic activity around the world.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future