The informal justice paradigm and the appropriation of ‘local reality’


  • Torunn Wimpelmann CHR Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway


This article traces the emergence of a new paradigm within rule of law assistance and the forms of appropriation that operate through it. An informal justice paradigm promotes external support to non-state justice as more sensitive to local aspirations and as a more efficient form of intervention. I problematise this paradigm by unpacking both its discursive premises and the actual mechanisms through which aid to informal justice can take place. I argue that the celebrated sensitivity to local context, contrary to assertions, in the last instance empower outside experts, whose mandate it becomes to validate ‘local reality’ and render it amendable for intervention. In sum, the informal justice paradigm enables a parallel form of governance where national institutions are deemed optional at best and irrelevant at worst, where ultimate authority is exercised by international expertise and where accountability to the local population is, on the whole, eroded.