Fragility and Rule of Law in Rwanda The fragility and the rule of law in Rwanda have recently become topics of discussion. This follows a ruling by the U.K. Court of Appeal, which deemed Rwanda unsafe for U.K.-bound refugees. Additionally, there’s been talk about recent violence in the DRC, with some sources suggesting that Rwanda’s current president, Paul Kagame, has supported it. Several factors contribute to Rwanda’s fragility, ranging from a lack of government transparency to the lasting effects of civil war.

A Brief Overview

Rwanda has a significant history of poverty and instability, attributed to various factors, from geography to politics. Approximately 38% of Rwandans currently live below the poverty line, defined by the U.N. as living on less than $2.15 a day. This means many struggle to maintain even a basic standard of living, exacerbating the fragility of Rwanda’s rule of law.

Fragility in Rwanda

Between 1990 and 1994, civil war overcame Rwanda, resulting in fragility and weakly upheld rule of law throughout the nation. A rift between the two major ethnic groups present in Rwanda at the time, the Hutus and the Tutsis was the pretext behind the civil war. The genocide had a lasting effect on Rwanda, decimating families and resulting in more than 800,000 civilian casualties.

Although the presence of fragility and unstable rule of law in Rwanda has diminished, it remains a complex factor affecting the country’s development. Despite efforts to rebuild and foster development, Rwanda still grapples with the legacy of its tragic history. Conflict traps such as these have been shown to have a catastrophic effect on the future development of any nation. The result is slow and unstable development, making it all the more challenging to establish security throughout the nation. 

Democracy and Rule of Law

Government corruption also contributes to fragility in Rwanda. While Rwanda’s government structures have improved over time, its democracy and criminal justice system still face challenges. The current ruling party of Rwanda is the RPF, also known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front. There are basic barriers to fair democracy present, such as high administrative requirements for RPF opposition parties, as well as instances of imprisonment for opposing party members. 

In the past, individuals labeled as ‘opponents of the government,‘ including bloggers and journalists reporting on political issues, have faced arrest and illegitimate trials. This raises questions about the stability of democracy and the preservation of political freedom of speech.

Previous allegations of corruption have also raised concerns about the integrity of Rwanda’s criminal justice system. Reports from Human Rights Watch have highlighted maltreatment of inmates, along with claims of unaccounted disappearances and deaths, indicating weaknesses in Rwanda’s rule of law. Journalists have previously reported on topics such as unlawful detention and torture, suggesting that human rights in Rwanda are not fully protected and that the rule of law remains fragile.

The Good News

Rwanda has introduced several frameworks and policies to address the lasting damage from its history of violence. One example is the ‘Rwanda Vision 2020’ development program, which outlines specific goals for sustainable development. The Rwandan anti-corruption policy, a component of Rwanda Vision 2020, recognizes the need for national development that can enhance the quality of life, promote a competitive economy and deliver effective and efficient public services. Achieving these goals involves good governance, strengthening law enforcement and monitoring and evaluation frameworks to uphold the rule of law.

Government stability can be best preserved by increasing transparency, which reduces the likelihood of corruption and illegal activity. Transparency International reports that Rwanda recently ranked as the fourth-least corrupt African country. Rwandan officials’ statements support this, noting the acceptance and adoption of a culture of ‘transparency and accountability’ within the Rwandan government. Increased government transparency is likely the primary reason behind these improvements in Rwanda’s government, as strong checks and balances are essential to long-term stability and preventing government failure.

Addressing fragility has had and will continue to have beneficial effects for Rwandans living in absolute poverty. One framework included in Rwanda Vision 2020, the Vision Umurenge Program (VUP), aims to target absolute poverty and elevate Rwanda to a middle-income country. VUP provides financial assistance to accelerate poverty reduction through economic advancement schemes. This framework includes female beneficiaries, empowering women, who often belong to the poorest socioeconomic groups, by distributing funding more equitably among household members. This effectively targets some of the lowest-income individuals and accelerates poverty reduction.

Following Rwanda Vision 2020, which set targets to be achieved by 2020, Rwanda has introduced the Rwanda Vision 2050 policy. This policy outlines goals for improving health care and education provision, as well as increasing workforce productivity. By enhancing access to public goods and boosting productivity levels, Rwanda aims to reduce absolute poverty rates, ensuring more Rwandans have access to basic necessities, regardless of their household income. Overall, Rwanda is making steady progress toward eradicating absolute poverty.

– Hannah Bugeja
Photo: Flickr

Fragility and Rule of Law in KashmirKashmir is a region in South Asia with disputed territories in India, Pakistan and China. It is known for its diverse and vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, rich music and a wide range of clothing. Located in the Himalayas, Kashmir now stands as a symbol of fragility and the fight for the rule of law due to political disputes.


The Jammu and Kashmir territories have been under dispute since the Partition in 1947 when the British Raj withdrew and India and Pakistan separated based on religious divisions. With a Muslim majority, Kashmir had the choice to join either country. Initially planning for independence, the Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh later acceded to India after a tribal invasion, setting the stage for the fragility and ongoing struggles for the rule of law in Kashmir.

However, the Maharaja’s agreement to join India was based on terms outlined in Article 370 and Article 35A. Article 370 granted Kashmir autonomy to create its own Constitution, make laws and have its flag, while Article 35A ensured equal opportunities for Kashmiris in land ownership, employment and assistance. The Indian government deployed its army to counter the tribal invasion and although the United Nations (U.N.) established a ceasefire, both Indian and Pakistani troops remain in the region as of July 2023.

Political System in Kashmir

On August 5th, 2019, the Indian government revoked Articles 370 and 35A. The revocation undermined the rule of law in Kashmir and deprived citizens of the same rights and liberties they once had legal entitlements to. Jammu and Kashmir lost their state status and became Union Territories (UT), regions administered entirely by the central government, further contributing to the political fragility of the region.

Citizens of Jammu and Kashmir have had limited political participation since the last state assembly elections in 2014. While India prides itself on being one of the world’s largest democracies, the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s state status raises concerns about the fragility and the rule of law in Kashmir. With the new UT status, both executive and legislative power rests with the central government and the State Assembly of Kashmir has been dissolved. This lack of representation has led to calls for the restoration of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir.

Human Rights Violations

In addition to the ever-changing and fragile system of government, arrests and enforced disappearances of activists and journalists have become increasingly common, undermining the fundamental principle of the rule of law in Kashmir. Notably, journalist Irfan Mehraj was arrested by the National Investigation Agency for exposing human rights abuses. 

According to the Free Speech Collective, the arrest of Irfan Mehraj is “an alarming indication of how far the authorities will go to clamp down on independent journalism.” The organization emphasizes the need to stop targeting independent journalists in Kashmir, allowing them to practice their profession without fear or favor.

Furthermore, the government has imposed numerous internet shutdowns, restricting communication and preventing the flow of information. In 2021 alone, Jammu and Kashmir experienced 85 internet shutdowns, violating the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and expression, as ruled by the Indian Supreme Court. This demonstrates the fragility of Kashmir, where the government perceives freedom of the press as a threat. 

Additionally, the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act grants the military broad powers in Jammu and Kashmir, leading to further human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture and rape. These violations often go unpunished, fueling controversy and perpetuating human rights abuses.

Political instability and human rights violations directly contribute to poverty in Kashmir. The region’s militarization, as seen through policies like the Armed Forces Act, is a leading cause. Additionally, 73% of people lack access to health care and 43% of children are out of school. The forced disappearances, violence and arrests have caused distress and instability within family structures, hindering socioeconomic success. Political instability has worsened inflation, with no state government creating opportunities for Kashmiris.

Take Action

Kashmir Action provides a variety of resources to educate individuals about the crisis in Kashmir. The website is run by the organization, Justice For All, which addresses issues and politically mobilizes for causes that have not garnered sufficient international support. For instance, Justice for All advocates for independent Kashmiri media, creates petitions for specific issues in Kashmir, organizes protests and provides educational material. In 2020, the organization reached more than 6 million social media interactions and distributed 75,000 educational brochures. A few ways to support Justice for All include signing petitions, making awareness posts and reading their reports.

Helping Hand for Relief and Development is another organization dedicated to providing direct humanitarian aid to Kashmiris on both sides of the border. It offers resources to those in need through its campaigns across the world. For example, in 2021, the organization provided in-kind gifts to 4,718,872 containing food, furniture, hygiene items, school supplies, medical equipment and clothes. The essential items in the relief kits assist people across the globe living in poverty while alleviating their suffering. Moreover, Helping Hand’s Kashmir Relief Campaign goes to projects such as Winter Relief, Ramadan Food, Water for Life and the Medical In-Kind Gifts Program. These campaigns are especially important for global poverty alleviation as they provide necessities to vulnerable populations in Kashmir. 

Looking Ahead

The people of Kashmir continue to show resilience under the unstable political system and the ongoing human rights violations that undermine the rule of law. Raising awareness of the attacks on human rights is pivotal to garnering international support. While political instability and human rights violations contribute to socio-economic disparities in Kashmir, taking both political actions and donating to humanitarian aid play a crucial role in shaping a brighter future for Kashmir. 

– Mehreen Syed
Photo: Unsplash

Rule of Law in Lebanon
Once dubbed the “Paris of the Middle East,” Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, was well-known for its vibrancy. It comprised culture, music, art and a spirited social life inspired by France after it gained independence in 1943. Until 1975, Lebanon was in a state of peace and prosperity and it was a popular tourist destination and center for international trade. While that all changed when a 15-year-long civil war raged on and completely changed the governance of the nation socially and politically, the Lebanese people never lost their celebrated resilience.

About the Rule of Law in Lebanon

The aspiring future of Lebanon was heavily altered after the 15-year civil war of 1975 that left Lebanon in a rather unique state of fragility. While the nation had both an open political system and economy after gaining independence from the French, with low poverty levels compared to others in the region, the War greatly impacted Lebanon’s sense of safety, political regimes and infrastructure. Thus, in efforts to rebuild the state and end the war in 1989, the government signed the National Reconciliation accord in Taif, Saudi Arabia.

Notably, the amended Lebanese Constitution that followed called for establishing a constitutional court and enhanced the power of the Sunni Muslim Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri, over the Maronite Christian president and the Shi’a Muslim speaker of Parliament.

This judiciary structure and political system of Lebanon, which both French and Ottoman models inspired, had a multi-confessional structure. It called for equality before the law and equal representation of Lebanese civilians, protecting their freedom of religion, and respecting rights for the Cabinet to act as a mechanism for fairness between the religions. Furthermore, it also allowed the Syrian forces that remained in Lebanon as a result of the Syrian occupation of 1976 to stay in the country as a stabilizing force.

However, it suffered significant division following the war, as warlords began holding seats in Parliament after a national amnesty in 1990. There were also exchanges of personal benefits between the government and parliament, and conflict over sectarian interests that deeply impacted the rule of law in Lebanon. Despite this, Lebanon still managed to see five prosperous years starting in 2000, until the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri in 2005.

The Way This Has Impacted the Nation

The year Prime Minister Hariri was assassinated, the Syrian occupation ended, and thus, Syrians received permission to remain in Lebanon and increase their military power. Because of this, they began interfering in Lebanese political affairs, and a series of events followed that included continuing assassinations, a war between Israel and militant group Hezbollah, Hezbollah’s retaliation and their invasion of Sunni areas in Beirut as well as further religious showdowns, corruption and economic mismanagement.

The Lebanese government’s structure meant that it needed to include all factions, which led to leaders monopolizing their shared power amongst themselves, and then using that power to pursue their own agendas and interests, allowing for sectarian divide. This political unrest and breach of Lebanon’s security, as well as threats from neighboring countries, severely rattled rule of law in Lebanon.

Thus, Lebanon grew to become the most indebted country after the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri, as the nation became financially reliant on internal and external borrowing. Lebanon was unsuccessful in producing long-term economic growth, despite the fiscal, monetary and central bank policies that attempted to reduce its deficits.

With this debt and other economic disasters, the political structure of Lebanon adopted a clientelist structure as the productive sector only favored elites, making the economy unproductive and undiversified, worsening poverty levels and deepening inequality. In 2020, the top 10% of Lebanese workers received 56% of the total income earned from 2005 to 2014 and the lowest 50% of the population received only 11%.


All the political unrest amongst leaders in government created an ethnoreligious identity and social dynamic that formed multiple political parties, creating a strong sense of community amongst the people and militias who support each other despite contributing to an insurgency in the country.

In October 2019, citizens across Lebanon stormed Beirut streets as they protested against a tax on WhatsApp calls, which was meant to act as one of Beirut’s solutions to combat economic pressures. However, these protests eventually turned into nationwide protests that lasted for months, as the Lebanese people saw these tax measures issues as only favoring the elite at the expense of the lesser privileged middle class.

This shows that hope still exists for the future of Lebanon, as Lebanese people have taken measures to improve the rule of law in Lebanon. Following the protests in October 2019, Lebanon saw an increase in community-based and grassroots networks, as well as public mobilization, looking for peaceful change. After the explosion in Beirut in 2020, for example, youth groups, women’s networks and Chief Starting Officers joined together to assist vulnerable families and keep community tensions under control, as well as tackle the spread of fake COVID-19 news.

Among these initiatives is the Grassroots Lebanon Non-Profit Organization (GLNPO), a network of Lebanese citizens looking to take action into their own hands to improve the standards of living that Lebanon’s fragility impacted. GLNPO encourages a sense of belonging and looks to promote a high sense of solidarity and agency among the community by tackling poverty, improving education, providing medical support and raising awareness of a number of issues impacting society. So far, GLNPO has provided relief after the Beirut explosion in 2020, distributed aid to schools and hosted cultural events among many other projects that aim to benefit the future and people of Lebanon.

– Noura Matalqa
Photo: Flickr

Fragility of Rule of Law in Honduras
Government corruption, drug-related crimes and poverty are three factors that reinforce each other and perpetuate the fragility of rule of law in Honduras. Poverty in Honduras remains a major concern, as around 48% of its population (more than 4.3 million people) live below the national poverty line, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, the country is also a key transit point for drugs bound to the United States from South America, said the U.S. State Department in its 2022 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. A culture of impunity also prevails, with corruption and abuse marring the country’s judiciary and police, according to the 2022 World Report by Human Rights Watch.

The good news is that while these problems continue to plague the scenic Central American country, several local and U.S. institutions are working together to develop strategies aimed at improving the rule of law in Honduras.

Factors Undermining the Rule of Law in Honduras

In Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the Honduran government received a transparency score of 24 out of 100. A score of zero means highly corrupt and 100 is very transparent.

Misconduct, common among police officers and other low-ranking officials, reaches the country’s highest level of government as well. For instance, in 2022, the U.S. government extradited Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez for drug and weapons trafficking charges.

Corruption plays a part in continual poverty by misappropriating the funds intended for the delivery of essential services for the citizens of Honduras. Notably, in 2018, corruption in Honduras was more than $2 billion, or 12.5% of the nation’s GDP.

The Association for a More Just Society says that without a strong government to enforce the rule of law in Honduras, criminal organizations grow in power and influence. As a result, corruption and poverty keep deepening.  

Efforts to Uphold Rule of Law in Honduras

In response to a $300 million embezzlement scandal from 2014, the Honduran public called for the president’s resignation. They also demanded the creation of a national anti-corruption agency.

To address the public outrage, the Honduran government collaborated with the Organization of American States (OAS). This collaboration led to the creation of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH).

The MACCIH began operations in 2016 and was fairly successful. It arrested and convicted many high-ranking government officials implicated in the embezzlement scandal. It also fired 40% of the police force under suspicion of corruption. However, after four years, the MACCIH’s mandate ended following a disagreement between the Honduran government and the OAS.

The MACCIH’s shutdown also led to the end of the Special Prosecutor’s Unit against Impunity and Corruption (Unidad Fiscal Especial contra la Impunidad y la Corrupción) or UFECIC. UFECIC and the MACCIH were working closely in investigating corrupt networks.

Replacing UFECIC was the Special Prosecutor’s Unit against Corruption Networks (Unidad Fiscal Especializada Contra Redes de Corrupción) or UFERCO. However, UFERCO receives insufficient resources and support from national and international institutions. UFERCO’s situation debilitates efforts to uphold the rule of law in Honduras.

An additional complication to addressing the fragility of rule of law in Honduras is a new penal code, the Washington Office on Latin America said. The new code reduces sentences for corruption and drug trafficking-related crimes. 

Indeed, the controversial new code led to the acquittal of 14 officials implicated in the 2014 embezzlement case. Beneficiaries of the controversial code also include those convicted of misusing government money. Under the new code, those sentenced to less than five years have the possibility to reduce their sentence if they can repay the stolen funds. The new penal code went into effect in June 2020.

Onward and Forward: The Path to Strengthening the Rule of Law in Honduras

Despite the setbacks, several activities aimed at reducing the fragility of rule of law in Honduras persist. One such initiative is the Justice, Human Rights and Security Strengthening Activity (Unidos por la Justicia). This project, which USAID launched in 2016, operates to: instigate institutional reform, increase access to justice and civil society, increase policing and empower women to combat gender-based violence.

Additionally, the Biden Administration has pledged $4 billion over four years to address crime, poverty and corruption in Honduras and its neighboring states El Salvador and Guatemala. The move is part of the “U.S. Strategy for Addressing the Root Cause of Migration in Central America” plan.

This funding led to the founding of the Effective Justice to Combat Criminality and Corruption Project (JECCC), a U.S.-backed project seeking to collaborate with and expand on the efforts of Unidos por la Justicia.

In the past, the United States gave funds directly to the central government and Honduran law enforcement. However, to avoid funneling money into corrupt institutions, the new protocol prioritizes NGOs working toward improved education, agriculture and women’s rights.

– Xander Heiple
Photo: Flickr

Law in Timor-LesteAll states face economic, social and political pressure, but when the pressure exceeds a state’s ability to control it, the state becomes fragile. The Fund for Peace uses the Fragile States Index (FSI) to assess the vulnerability of 179 countries every year. The Southeast Asian nation of Timor-Leste has shown significant decreases in economic and environmental fragility in recent years. In 2020, for the first time, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) report on the state of fragility did not list Timor-Leste as a fragile state. In the FSI’s 2021 report, Timor-Leste ranked first of all the world’s countries for yearly reduction in overall fragility score. Improvements to fragility and rule of law in Timor-Leste have also helped the nation reduce poverty.

History of Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste, formally known as East Timor, is one of the world’s youngest nations. It was a Portuguese colony until 1975, then remained under Indonesian sovereignty until 1999. In 1999, the U.N. organized the East Timorese Independence Referendum, in which citizens chose independence over greater autonomy within Indonesia.

Timor-Leste became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century after the formal ratification of independence in 2002. Timor-Leste has devoted the last 20 years to rebuilding infrastructure and formal institutions damaged by past conflict. Around 1.3 million people call the newly peaceful, democratic nation home.

Economic Growth in Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste’s poverty rate dropped from 50% in 2007 to 42% in 2014, indicating economic growth. Less poverty means less violence, so the drop in poverty means improvement in fragility and rule of law in Timor-Leste. The Timorese government has put great effort toward reducing disparities within the economy, especially through education.

After decades of conflict, the Timorese needed to rebuild nearly all institutions from the ground up. Between 2005 and 2008, the government devoted significant funding to primary education, leading primary education enrollment to increase from 68% to 85%. However, older youth and adults still lacked the education to participate fully in society and the economy.

In 2010, with only 36% of the population functionally literate, the World Bank launched the Second Chance Education Project. The program set up nine community learning centers with flexible hours, providing a second chance to those too old for primary school. By the time the project ended in 2017, 1,670 students had participated in the mature education course, 55% of whom were women. Timor-Leste’s recent efforts put the country on target to achieve U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 4 (quality education) by 2030.

Social Improvements

Improvements in health and nutrition directly improved fragility and rule of law in Timor-Leste. Malnutrition is the country’s leading cause of premature death and disability. Timorese children suffer the third highest stunting prevalence in the world, with more than 50% of children younger than 5 identified as stunted. Experts believe that loss of productivity due to malnutrition costs Timor-Leste $40 million per year.

To combat malnutrition, the World Bank implemented the Community Driven Nutrition Improvement Program. Operating in 49 villages, the four-year program taught families how to grow and cook nutrient-rich foods. The program gave more than 1,000 families sweet potato cuttings and provided more than 400 families with seeds for their home and community gardens.

With the help of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), Timor-Leste has also brought its malaria epidemic under control. The GFATM funded and helped launch the National Malaria Control Program in 2003. Following the launch, Timor-Leste saw a 97% decrease in reported cases, which dropped from around 223,000 cases in 2006 to only around 6,200 in 2012. The program followed a six-part strategy:

  1. Enhance early detection and effective therapies.
  2. Distribute long-lasting insecticidal nets.
  3. Conduct indoor residual spraying.
  4. Improve epidemic prevention, preparedness and response.
  5. Educate the public.
  6. Enhance monitoring and research.

Political Improvements

Timor-Leste’s democracy continues to flourish. Since gaining independence in 2002, the state has successfully held four peaceful, free and fair multi-party elections, all of which ended with a smooth transfer of power. Democratic stability will continue to improve fragility and rule of law in Timor-Leste. As one of Southeast Asia’s most stable democracies, the 2020 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Report classified Timor-Leste as on target for SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

The Timorese government now prioritizes rebuilding infrastructure and public services. The Timor-Leste Road Climate Resilience Project is currently restoring 110 kilometers of road connecting three of the main districts in the country. Inability to travel throughout the country isolates communities and isolation hurts the economy. The project will connect 410,000 citizens, encouraging greater economic activity. The road will also help decrease malnutrition by giving families access to diverse foods grown in other parts of the country. The road restoration project is nearly 80% complete.

Goals for Timor-Leste Through 2024

In November 2019, the World Bank Group established the Country Partnership Framework for Timor-Leste. It plans to transform Timor-Leste’s “natural wealth into improved human capital and sustainable infrastructure” with three main objectives:

  1. Promote private sector-led growth and diversify the economy.
  2. Improve human capital.
  3. Continue to rebuild infrastructure, especially transportation.

Along with Timor-Leste, the OECD also removed Egypt, Malawi, Nepal and Rwanda from the list of fragile nations in 2020. As fragility and rule of law in Timor-Leste and other nations improve, their neighboring nations will also find more stability. There is always room for improvement but the world should take a moment to celebrate the significant progress in the small, young country of Timor-Leste.

– Ella LeRoy
Photo: Flickr