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State Building and the Rule of Law


Photo credit: 
Creative Commons photo by Michael Foley


  • Professor of the Practice, Law

The establishment of rule of law is an integral component of state development. Building a new legal system or reforming an existing one involves complex tasks that include: formulating policies, drafting laws, training legal personnel, and establishing effective administrative regularity. These activities require not only practicing lawyers, but also new graduates to join the legal profession and qualified legal academics to teach them. For the rule of law to become entrenched in a post-conflict or developing nation, there must exist a reservoir of legal professionals who know how to navigate the legal system, enforce the law and guide individuals as to available legal remedies. Often, however, developing or post-conflict countries do not have a sufficient number of trained lawyers to overcome the inherent challenges facing them. 

The State Building and Rule Of Law Program (ROL Program) at Stanford Law School (SLS) draws on the expertise of Stanford's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and SLS to promote excellence in legal education in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Kurdish Iraq, Timor Leste and Bhutan. The program aspires to teach students in our partner institutions to think, write, speak and behave as professional lawyers. The five projects of the ROL Program involve collaborations between SLS students acting under faculty supervision and faculty and students at partner institutions. The projects develop law curricula, author textbooks that critically and comparatively analyze the laws of the respective project countries, translate the textbooks into local languages, and provide technical support to develop the capacity of the partner institutions. The ROL Program is uniquely positioned to assist states to rebuild, reform, and otherwise modernize their systems of legal education, and, thereby contribute to their peaceful reconstruction and development.

This research program has several dimensions 

  1. The State-Building and Rule of Law Seminar at Stanford Law School, led by Erik Jensen, introduces the key theories relevant to state-building generally and strengthening the rule of law in particular. The seminar situates rule of law programs conceptually and practically with the imperative to build durable formal and informal institutions, including legal institutions that have legitimacy and capacity and can ensure security. The seminar also critically assesses case studies of state-building as well as requests for proposal, requests for applications, evaluations and other project documents generated by the development industry. The seminar is offered every fall quarter.
  2. Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP): Founded in 2007 as a student-driven initiative, the ALEP project develops innovative legal curricula to help Afghanistan’s universities train the next generation of lawyers and leaders. ALEP has developed a Bachelors of Laws and Arts degree program at the American University of Afghanistan with strong support from the U.S. Department of State. ALEP has also published five textbooks, which are among the first to specifically address Afghanistan's post-2004 legal system. The books include a general introduction to the laws of Afghanistan, as well as introductions to Afghan constitutional law, criminal law, commercial law, the law of civil obligations, and public international law. The books have been translated into the native Dari and Pashto languages and are available for free download at Three additional textbooks on Professional Responsibility, the Law of Civil Obligations, and Property Law are forthcoming.
  3. Timor Leste Legal Education Program (TLLEP):Launched in March 2010, the Timor-Leste Legal Education Project (TLLEP) is a partnership between The Asia Foundation and Stanford Law School. TLLEP provides accessible, dynamic educational textbooks to help build knowledge in Timorese universities, government institutions and non-governmental organizations. Since 2010, TLLEP has published textbooks about Timorese constitutional law, commercial law, and professional responsibility, as well as a series of working papers on a wide range of legal topics. Most of the textbooks have been translated into Portuguese and the native Tetum languages and all are available for free download at
  4. Iraq Legal Education Initiative (ILEI):Launched in 2012, the Iraq Legal Education Initiative (ILEI) is a partnership between Stanford Law School and the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. Working closely with Iraqi faculty, the project is undertaking some of the first legal scholarly analyses of Iraqi and Kurdish laws as they relate to the Kurdistan region. The project is publishing a series of working papers on a variety of legal issues that will ultimately form a two-volume introductory textbook on the laws of Kurdish Iraq.
  5. Rwanda Law and Development Project (RLDP):The newest addition to the Rule of Law Program, the Rwanda Law and Development Project (RLDP) is a collaboration between SLS, the Rwanda Law Review Commission, and the National University of Rwanda. RLDP produces policy materials on statutory interpretation and legal reform in Rwanda that will be used by the Law Review Commission as it seeks to update and harmonize Rwandan legislation.
  6. Bhutan Law and Policy Project (BLPP): The Bhutan Law & Policy Project (BLPP) is focused on the legal development process of Bhutan, a country that seeks to emerge from isolation and develop economically, while maintaining its cultural values. BLPP has produced a 2-volume set of textbooks entitled An Introduction to the Laws of Bhutan.

Updated: Nov. 2013