International Development Law Organization

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International Development Law Organization
Square blue logo.png
Abbreviation IDLO
Motto Creating a Culture of Justice
Formation January 1, 1983; 35 years ago (1983-01-01)
Type IGO
Headquarters Rome, Italy
Region served
Irene Khan
Affiliations United Nations

The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the promotion of the rule of law.

With a joint focus on the promotion of rule of law and development, it works to empower people and communities to claim their rights, and provides governments with the know-how to realize them.[1] It supports emerging economies and middle-income countries to strengthen their legal capacity and rule of law framework for sustainable development and economic opportunity.[2] It is the only intergovernmental organization with an exclusive mandate to promote the rule of law and has experience working in dozens of countries around the world.[3]

IDLO is headquartered in Rome, Italy and has a branch office in The Hague and is one of a number of entities that are United Nations General Assembly observers.

The only intergovernmental organization with an exclusive mandate to promote the rule of law, IDLO has operated in dozens of sovereign states, focusing on institution-building and legal empowerment.[4] Its alumni network includes more than 20,000 legal professionals in 175 countries and 46 independent alumni associations.[5]

IDLO has signed MoUs with United Nations agencies, governments, universities, and other entities. Major financial contributions to IDLO have come from the Australian Agency for International Development, Gates Foundation, Center for International Forestry Research, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Union, Ford Foundation, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Institute of Medicine, Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, OPEC Fund for International Development, United Nations Development Programme, and UNICEF as well as numerous countries, namely Canada, China, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Irene Khan is the Director-General of IDLO.


Founded in 1983 as an NGO called ‘The International Development Law Institute’ (IDLI) which aimed to provide training and technical assistance to developing countries.[6] IDLI was put into action by "[United States Agency for International Development (USAID)] seed money" by a group of people that included then USAID's former employee William T. Loris.[7][not in citation given] IDLI Chairman from 1983 to 1999 was Dr. Ibrahim Shihata (General counsel of the World Bank from 1983 to 1998). The Institute was re-founded as an inter-governmental organization international in 1991 (with France as President of the Assembly of parties) and renamed the International Development Law Organization.[8][not in citation given] In 2001 IDLO was granted Permanent Observer Status at the United Nations.[9] In 2014, IDLO opened a branch office in The Hague.[10][11]


Member States[edit]

As an inter-governmental organization, membership to the organization is made up of signatories to the Establishment Agreement of IDLO.[12] There are currently 27 Member Party states, the most recent country to become a member being El Salvador.[13]

The parties to IDLO’s Establishment Agreement are:

Governance Structure[edit]

Assembly of Parties[edit]

Member Party states form the Assembly of Parties, IDLO’s highest decision making body. Kuwait currently sits as President of the Assembly of parties while the US has won the vice-president post.[14] The role of the Assembly is to determine the IDLO's policies and oversee the work of the Director-General.


Irene Khan is the current Director-General. The first woman to hold the office, she was elected by Member Parties on 17 November 2011 and took up her position formally on 1 January 2012 for a term of four years.

International Advisory Council[edit]

IDLO’s International Advisory Council is composed of:[15]

Senior Management[edit]

  • Cliff Johnson: General Counsel
  • Erwin van der Borght: Director of Programs
  • Haroun Atallah: Director of Finance and Support Services
  • Ilaria Bottigliero: Director of Research and Learning
  • Judit Arenas: Director of External Relations and Deputy Permanent Observer to the United Nations
  • Miguel Figuerola: Director of Human Resources and Office Support Services
  • Patrizio Civili: Permanent Observer to the United Nations
  • Ted Hill: Head, Branch Office Netherlands and Senior Legal Adviser (Program Development)[16]


IDLO has worked in dozens of countries around the world,[3] working with the belief that justice means ensuring fair outcomes in concrete, local terms.[17]


IDLO has been working in Somalia for the last thirty years, providing training to Somali legal professionals and technical assistance to the judiciary. Somali Prime Minister, Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali has called IDLO "a premiere institution that is supporting Somalia on its journey to peace and stability."[18]

In recent years, IDLO has worked on supporting the development of a Somali constitution and in the integration of customary justice. In 2011 IDLO created an assessment of traditional and customary justice, arguing that linking customary and traditional justice in a bottom up approach would be most effective.[19]

Financed by the Italian government, IDLO worked with local experts on the country's provisional Constitution, holding consultative sessions with Mogadishu residents, refugees, and the Somali diaspora.[20]

Towards the adoption of the Constitution, IDLO helped produce a comparative analysis of the new draft Constitution, the Constitution of 1960 and the Transitional Federal Charter of 2004 and supported the Constitutional Affairs and Reconciliation Ministry in hosting a conference on fundamental rights and transitional justice.[21]

Following the adoption of the constitution by the National Constitution Assembly on 1 August 2012 IDLO drafted a report on providing analysis and suggestions for Justice and Security development under the new constitutional order. The report provides a description of steps to be taken during the implementation phase of the constitution, including the establishment of institutions, development and revision of legislative frameworks, and capacity building. It also sketches out dispute resolution mechanisms of the three legal systems in Somalia: xeer, Shari’ah, and the statutory judiciary.[22]

Comparing the draft constitution to those from 53 of the 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, as well as the constitutions of Italy and the United States of America, IDLO found that it contained 36 of the 45 fundamental rights - placing it in the top five of the countries surveyed. The organization also stated that the Somali draft constitution contained 15 more than the Constitution of the United States of America.[23]


IDLO has been active in Afghanistan since 2002, stating their intent has been to restore rule of law in the country and develop a new idea of justice, while respecting the principles of Islam.[24] Primarily Afghan staff have been used to train legal professionals in the country.

Following a survey taken by the IDLO in 2013 which found that women made up just over 8 percent of the country’s judges, 6 percent of prosecutors and less than one fifth of lawyers, IDLO’s Director General Irene Khan called for greater participation of women in the Afghanistan’s justice sector.[25]

Women’s Rights[edit]

Whilst the Constitution of Afghanistan offers protection to women, domestic and sexual violence are common and considered a family matter, dealt through informal justice systems composed of male elders.[26] In June 2009, IDLO launched Afghanistan’s first Violence against Women Unit, with support from the office of the Attorney General of Afghanistan.[24] IDLO reports that in 2010 the unit handled more than 300 cases.[9]

In December 2010 The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) contributed $12.1 million to expand and improve legal aid services to the poor and disempowered, increase public awareness of legal issues, rights and services, and improve the investigation and prosecution of crimes against women and girls.[27]

On 11 April 2013 INL announced it would provide IDLO a further $59 million for programmes in Afghanistan: $47 million to fund IDLO implement training programmes for the Afghan justice sector – the Justice Training Transition Program (JTTP) – and another $12 million for a separate IDLO program to provide support and training for prosecution of crimes against women.[28]

Allegations of Lack of Oversight[edit]

In January 2014 the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report highlighting it believed there to be a lack of oversight requirements in INL’s 2013 contract with IDLO in relation to JTTP . SIGAR had previously warned of a lack of monitoring in an ‘alert-letter’ to the State Department sent to the State Department on July 22, 2013.[29] The letter also accused IDLO of refusing to provide SIGAR with information regarding its budget, organizational structure and financial relationship with the US government.

In response to SIGAR’s 2013 statement, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that there were no allegations or evidence of fraud, waste or mismanagement in the program and that oversight was provided through daily contact on the ground.[30] In a letter responding to SIGAR’s claims, INL highlighted mechanisms of accountability and stated their confidence in the IDLO program.[31]

In a statement posted on their website IDLO called their monitoring and evaluation mechanisms ‘robust and extensive’. IDLO also refuted SIGAR’s statement that it had refused to provide information writing that they had met with SIGAR staff in April and May 2013.[32]

South Sudan[edit]

IDLO provided the newly established country of South Sudan with technical legal assistance; training the judiciary in both the fundamentals of common law and, during the process of transition away from a Shari’ah based legal system, in ‘legal’ English.[33]

With funding from the European Union in 2014, IDLO scaled up their work in South Sudan, delivering a series of context-specific training courses to 150 newly appointed judges and judicial support staff.[34]

IDLO also stated it was providing technical assistance in drafting a permanent Constitution for South Sudan.


Working with constitutional scholars Zachary Elkins and Tom Ginsberg, IDLO sponsored a group of constitutional scholars from universities in America to review drafts of the Kenyan constitution and provide feedback to the Kenyan Parliament.[35]

In 2013, USAID partnered with IDLO to assist the Government of Kenya develop the comprehensive laws and policies required under the new Constitution, assisting the Kenyan Parliament in reviewing, analysing and passing 55 laws, including 16 required by the Constitution.[36] Investigators in the project used data and analyzed from over 3000 constitutions in the world to share with Kenya’s Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) an analysis of the constitutional implementation process.[37] IDLO also implemented projects to strengthen the capacity of the judiciary and engage the public in the process.[38] IDLO has also stated that they are working with the government of Kenya to advance gender equality across the country and enact gender provisions contained in the Constitution[39]

An independent report found that its work in Kenya had provided support and services were delivered to fulfil identified needs COE and ensured the delivery trainings to educate Kenyans on the proposed Constitution before it was put to a national referendum. Despite some challenges, the report notes, IDLO consultants produced and delivered high quality technical reports and services which eventually contributed to the final version of the Constitution of KenyaRolene Guilland (17 November 2009). Supporting the Committee of Experts on cCnstitutional Review (PDF) (Report). Retrieved 25 January 2011. .

A permanent IDLO regional office was set up in Kenya in 2011.

Women and Girls[edit]

In a speech at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Director-General Irene Khan highlighted the importance of law in empowering women:

"A core principle of the rule of law is that we are all equal - equally protected by the law and equally accountable to it."[40]

The organization’s website states that across all of its programs, IDLO works to empower women.[41] In February 2013 IDLO released a report on women’s access to justice, with a focus on improving customary justice for women.[42]

Customary Justice[edit]

IDLO has a number of times, including at the UN,[43] emphasized the importance of working with informal or customary justice systems and has released three edited volumes on customary justice.[44]


  1. ^ "IDLO - What We Do". Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  2. ^ IDLO Strategic Plan
  3. ^ a b "IDLO Mission and History". 
  4. ^ About IDLO
  5. ^ Villarino, Eliza (15 December 2011). "Top global development groups in Rome: A primer". Devex. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Dustin J. Seibert. "A career of giving back". Chicago Lawyer. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  7. ^ "William T. Loris". Loyola University Chicago. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  8. ^ "Resources – UN Partner Organizations – IDLO". United States Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome. Archived from the original on 15 February 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "About IDLO – Our History". 
  10. ^ "Our History | IDLO". Retrieved 2018-01-13. 
  11. ^ "Internationale juridische organisatie IDLO naar Den". Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  12. ^ [1] IDLO - Assembly of Parties
  13. ^ "El Salvador Becomes IDLO's 27th Member Party". United States Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome. 27 March 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "IDLO handpicks Kuwait as Assembly of Parties pres". Kuwait News. November 8, 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  15. ^ "International Advisory Council". IDLO. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  16. ^ "Our People | IDLO". Retrieved 2018-01-13. 
  17. ^ Irene Khan (12 December 2012). "Of Law and Chickens". World Economic Forum. 
  18. ^ "Somali PM visits IDLO to discuss constitution". Relief Web. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 1 March 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  19. ^ Joesph, Nicholas (November 2013). "Serving the Justice Needs of the People: Adopting an Access to Justice Approach in Somalia's Rule of Law Reform". The World Bank Legal Review. The World Bank. 5: Fostering Development Through Opportunity, Inclusion, and Equity: 263–275. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-0037-5_ch13. ISBN 978-1-4648-0037-5. 
  20. ^ "Somalia: IDLO in Somalia - Still There, and Together Moving Forward". AllAfrica. International Development Law Organization. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  21. ^ 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Somalia (Report). US Department of State. 19 April 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  22. ^ Supporting the Peaceful Implementation of the New Constitution in Somalia: A Preliminary Report (Report). International Development Law Organization. October 2012. 
  23. ^ Abdi Guled; Jason Straziuso (26 July 2012). "Somalia constitution allows abortion to save mom, and". Associated Press. 
  24. ^ a b Leonardo Guzzo (31 March 2010). "Ecco come le ONG vogliono rafforzare il sistema giudiziario in Afghanistan". L'Occidentale. 
  25. ^ Maria Caspani. "Afghan women need more female judges and prosecutors to get justice - report". Thompson Reuters Foundation. Reuters. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  26. ^ Erica Gaston and Tim Luccaro (July 17, 2012). Women's Access to Justice in Afghanistan (PDF) (Report). United States Institute of Peace. 
  27. ^ "The U.S. Contributes $12.1 Million to IDLO to Improve Legal Services in Afghanistan". US Department of State. December 21, 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  28. ^ Department of State Press Release U.S. Supports Justice Reform in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Phillip Kurata, US Department of State, 12 April 2013
  29. ^ Kellan Howel (24 January 2014). "Oversight lacking for Afghan training funds". Washington Times. 
  30. ^ "State Department spent $50 mln on virtually invisible project in Afghanistan". RT. July 26, 2013. 
  31. ^ Letter Regarding the SIGAR Inspection of INL Justice Training Transition Program, US Department of State September 11, 2013
  32. ^ IDLO - SIGAR's Letter to Secretary John Kerry incorrect
  33. ^ South Sudan: Law in a Fragile State - IDLO
  34. ^ Strengthening Justice Institutions in South Sudan
  35. ^ "Government Professor Advises Drafters of Proposed Kenyan Constitution". University of Texas. 
  36. ^ USAID Factsheet: Supporting the Kenya Constitutional Implementation Process
  37. ^ CIC meets international constitution experts on safeguarding the implementation process
  38. ^ "Securing Kenya's Constitutional Development". IDLO. 
  39. ^ "Gender Reforms in Kenya's Public Service". IDLO. 
  40. ^ [2]
  41. ^ IDLO - Women and Girls
  42. ^ Mark Tran (6 February 2013). "Why we need to make customary laws work for women". The Guardian. 
  43. ^ "IDLO Statement at UN High Level Meeting On the Rule of Law At the National and International Levels" (PDF). 24 September 2012. 
  44. ^ "IDLO Publications on Customary Justice". Natural Justice. 

External links[edit]