The United States supports rule of law initiatives throughout the world. This resource describes the government agencies that support justice sector development, the process for allocating public funds, and the public and private institutions engaged with project implementation.
The U.S. Agency for International Development is an independent agency that receives policy guidance from the U.S. secretary of state. It is the primary development organization of the United States, and its programs include promotion of democracy, rights, and governance in addition to poverty reduction, global health, education, economic growth, and humanitarian assistance. USAID provides funding to private contractors, nonprofits, international organizations, and other agencies to implement projects based on its priority goals. USAID is currently undergoing a restructuring—information can be found here.
Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance (DRG Center)
Conflict Prevention and Stabilization Bureau (CPS)
Department of State
The U.S. Department of State is the foreign affairs agency of the U.S. government. It funds the majority of foreign affairs activities and provides direct funding for assistance activities, including rule-of-law programs. The State Department may act in several ways to provide funding, including to other U.S. government agencies, international organizations, and private contractors and nonprofit institutions. It has bureaus and offices that fund and manage rule-of-law programs, coordinate visitor exchanges, and identify rule-of-law experts for specific projects.
Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO)
Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT)
Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)
The Office of Knowledge Management (INL/KM)
The Office of Global Programs and Policy (INL/GPP)
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL)
Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA)
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
The MCC is a U.S. government agency that provides development funds to countries demonstrating commitment to reform. The MCC funds assistance programs based on its ascertaining their eligibility through various indicators. These indicators include rule of law, corruption controls, education, and trade policy. The MCC’s support for rule-of-law activities is usually provided by threshold programs that help improve performance in specific areas.
Funding Rule of Law Initiatives
As is the case with many countries, the United States directs a portion of its annual budget to international foreign assistance. The slider to the right discusses the funding process for rule of law programs. Funding addresses different priority objectives including fostering economic growth and reducing poverty; improving governance and healthcare; promoting stability and human rights; and countering terrorism and trafficking.
Support for the rule of law is essential to all these objectives and many government agencies are involved in justice sector development. The Department of State’s Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance coordinates this process.
The State Department and USAID design, but do not implement, rule of law initiatives. They fund, through contracts and grants, non-profit organizations and private companies with relevant expertise to carry out implementation. Some government agencies – including the Commerce Department and Department of Justice – receive funds from the State Department to provide direct technical assistance. Grants may also be awarded to international organizations with specific expertise.
Contracts are usually given to private firms to achieve specific and detailed project deliverables. Nonprofits may also compete for contracts. Contracts are costly and can be cumbersome to procure, but they allow an agency more detailed oversight over aspects such as the selection of high-level project leadership and monthly financial reports. For large contracts awarded to private companies, subcontractors may be retained to provide relevant expertise.
For a limited project that requires specific expertise, an agency may issue a nonbid sole-source contract to a single implementer. This saves time and allows the agency to use recognized experts in certain fields without going through the procurement process.
When agencies anticipate quickly evolving circumstances requiring rapid responses to events in a country or region, they may use pre-competed Indefinite Quantity Contract. These consist of implementers that have already met competition requirements (such as demonstrated expertise and records of success in certain fields). Task orders under these pre-competed contracts can be procured faster than other types of contracts.
Grants are used when an agency has general objectives in mind and wants to receive expert and creative proposals for how best to achieve its objectives. Grant competitions solicit applications and agencies select the best proposal. Support to international organizations like UNDP or the OSCE that have extensive and established programs of their own may be in the form of a grant.
Cooperative agreements are grants that involve modest oversight and allow for flexibility in implementing a program. They are often used to support nonprofit organizations and universities.
Procurement Process for Contracts & Grants
Department of Justice
The DOJ has two offices that focus on international justice-sector reform. These offices are funded through interagency agreements with the Department of State, USAID, or the MCC. The majority of programs are funded by the State Department/INL.
Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT)
International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP)
Department of Commerce
The Department of Commerce promotes job creation and economic growth by providing the data necessary to support commerce and constitutional democracy and fostering innovation by setting standards and conducting foundational research and development. Commerce provides international technical assistance through the Commercial Law Development Program and the United States Patent and Trademark Office/Global Intellectual Property Academy.
Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP)
United States Patent and Trademark Office/Global Intellectual Property Academy (USPTO/GIPA)
The U.S. government supports international rule-of-law initiatives in a number of ways. While some agencies implement their own programs, much of the work is done by quasigovernmental organizations, private firms, nonprofits, or educational institutions.