WHO IS LINN HAMMERGREN?
Linn Hammergren is an expert in rule of law, citizen security, anti-corruption policies, and general governance issues. She has a doctorate in Political Science and, before 2008, taught Political Science at Vanderbilt University. She then spent ten years with the World Bank and twelve as an internal consultant for USAID managing Administration of Justice projects.
Linn’s research and publications focus on judicial politics and reform, judicial corruption, citizen security, and the politics of foreign assistance. Her most recent book is Judicial Reform and Development: Rethinking Assistance to Developing and Transition Countries.
You can connect with Linn here:
IN TOR 050 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- The rule of law as a subject in development, what it entails, its complexities, and why it seems to be losing traction from organizations in favor of “simpler” things.
- The world through its justice courts, as traveled by Linn, and all the things the international development sector misses about justice, security and corruption, in Latin America, Africa and everywhere else.
- Critical view of Linn’s experience with large development organizations, pros and cons in terms of job security and the model of impact and interaction.
- Linn’s learning process, frustrations and positive experiences as both an envoy of the Word Bank and USAID; and as an independent professional.
- Linn’s opinion on how the development sector and aspiring professionals should interact with local governments and law officials, in terms of partnerships, building relationships, and assessing the impact of rule of law projects implemented.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- World Bank
- Open Society — Justice Initiative
- The Australian Courts
- Supreme Court of Sweden
- Rule of law
- Citizen security
- Street and gang violence
- Youth unemployment
- Technology for security and law
- Crime prevention
- Government decentralization
- Project assessment and evaluation
- Graduate education in international development
- Washington, DC
- Latin America
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
Focus of her practice
Rule of law, citizen security, corruption.
Security gains prominence in the development sector at the expense of the rule of law. “It may come back or not.”
Linn has worked on the former Soviet Union and Latin America on law.
Law has two sides, the criminal justice system, itself divided into courts and prosecution; and prevention. This last one is a large focus of work and funding, in subjects like community mobilization, youth at risk, local gangs.
Currently trying to reduce ‘panic,’ akin to the ebola crisis: “This is bad but it is not as bad as the newspapers say.” Focus on successes of communities in gang violence prevention and interaction with the police and officials.
“We’re trying too many things and need to understand better.”
Lots of work in project assessment and planning.
Use of community centers as focus of community organizations.
Project mixing work around law and prevention.
Countries with street violence tend to have high youth unemployment. “People have reservations about giving jobs for criminals.” Those kinds of projects take longer to set up.
A project intended to use monitor bracelets, which are costly, on people awaiting trial. In the country (as in the U.S.) the providing and monitoring service is offered by a private company. The project did not take into account the cost of people monitoring the service.
This and many technologies for security show success figures larger than they actually are.
Implementing and connecting a security system program
Involve a broad range of actors.
Issues with learning. Things want to be implemented that have already shown to fail in other places, but there is no communication, no feedback.
Local places in Latin America don’t control the “pieces of the puzzle.” In Mexico, the president wants to make the police national, it this goes through, municipalities would lose their patrols. “For crime prevention you need some kind of police.” Same thing happens with education and others. High levels of centralization.
International development ignores local political realities
“Oftentimes people who work on crime prevention don’t know how crime is organized.” They implement programs without key knowledge of education of police institutions, which ends up in projects having much less impact. Donors fund projects that cannot be implemented.
Once in Ecuador, trying to explain a civic concept to IT engineers, ended up going back to the branches of government. “You know the technical part, what your organization or your sector does, but you don’t understand the wider government framework.”
Not always focused towards development. “Blessing in disguise.”
Graduate studies in Latin American issues. Dissertation on decentralization. “Didn’t get tenure, I wanted to finish my book.”
After receiving her Master’s degree, the book was published, too late for an academic career, joined USAID and took from there. Worked on Political Analysis, a partner saw Peru in her work, offered, she applied.
Sometimes she wonders what would have been: “I would have had more funds for research had I stayed at the University instead of the development sector.”
USAID to World Bank to independence
After overseas for six years, Linn wanted to go back home before people would forget about her. Gained a grant to finish a book with her account, which grabbed the WorldBank’s attention.
By then people knew her track on rule of law, the countries she’s been to. Gained a lot of research funds. Realized working at the World Bank was project-based. When there were funds, she managed to do a lot of research on court decisions in Latin American countries.
When money ran out, she tried to keep finding funds but it was not enough. “The World Bank has a very draconian retirement policy. The month I turned 62, I was out.”
Worked in Africa, Malaysia, other agencies: IADB, Open Society Justice Initiative, the Australian Court. Gained exposure, rounded her Latin American experience with work in other places around the globe, is happier. “I was angry when I had to leave, but it probably was for the better.”
She also gained more freedom to pursue work specifically in criminal justice, citizen security, more integrated work.
Having to apply over and over, not getting jobs always. “There are months with nothing to do and then months where everyone wants me.” Work comes in clumps. Other times Linn gets booked by an expression of interest, she says no to other offers, but the signing of the contract gets delayed, weeks or months.
I prefer to work one project at a time, in sequence. “But it almost never goes that way.” Experience in Malaysia, she wanted to stay a little longer, but had to accept going to Australia.
But aside from that it’s not too different from working inside an agency.
Differences in development at the World Bank
I had reservations at the World Bank. “Big loans are not the way to go.” USAID was a more hands-on job, at the World Bank it was all from a desk in DC, attention completely divided.
Loans funded a lot of physical building of courthouses but not actual capable courts, which she finds troubling.
Both USAID and World Bank are bureaucratic.
Linn accounts for failure
Costa Rica, working with a Ministry. “Odd. She didn’t like me because I worked with a different person she signed me with.” In El Salvador, word arrived about how Linn was “difficult to work with.” Ministers of both countries were friends. The project was not working, parties were not working together, it was decided to end it, cut ties. “It was a feeling of failure. I could not work in Costa Rica or El Salvador anymore.” It ended being a good thing. “Those things happen. The person who replaced me experienced similar problems.”
Linn would like for organizations to use key contacts previously identified, it would save a lot of time, effort and cost.
Walking into a court in Ethiopia, to see the court’s vice president. She hands her card to a young judge: “I know you, I’ve studied your work, I’ve read your books!” They ended up working well together on an automated case tracking system. In Latin America, she often said, “If the Ethiopians can do it, why can’t you?” It was unexpected to find progressive judges. The court’s vice president used the system to keep up with the courts work every morning. The World Bank evaluated the work, positively.
The president of the Swedish Supreme Court did work in project evaluation for the World Bank, it was not positive, but somehow got lost. “Good judges can come to any court and understand what is going wrong, even if he does not know the language.”
Linn has started a lot of arguments on the subject on LinkedIn.
“A Master’s degree in international development is probably not a good place to start. You need to have something more substantive to bring to the table.”
“I taught myself as I went along“, including hard work on the judiciary and things she did not touch during her PhD. “I don’t think that is a possibility now.”
“You cannot go, starry-eyed, ‘I wanna help the poor.'” People on LinkedIn always want to work for the World Bank or USAID, Linn thinks they could have something substantive done before thinking about joining those kinds of organizations.
Get meaningful working experience, volunteer if need be. “Build a dossier of things that you’ve done.” Consulting firms have work and tend to be more willing to accept short term commitments. “You might not enjoy it too much but you gain experience, contact people, donors and agencies.”
“It’s nice to have a plan a, b, c and d, but I am not sure a plan ever works.”
Get a job doing what you want to do in development in your own country first. “It makes you more credible.”
Be willing to work more for governments and less for institutions, “which is harder.” Linn worked directly through the Mexican government, the World Bank asked her why she didn’t work with them, could have earned more. “It would have costed a lot much more to the Mexicans. I skipped a lot of bureaucracy, I did get paid on time, services were actually delivered.”
Have the expertise people need and want.
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