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Strong NGOs and Weak States
Pursuing Gender Justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa


  • Author: Milli Lake, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Date Published: May 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108419376

£ 75.00

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About the Authors
  • Over the past decade, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) and South Africa have attracted global attention for high rates of sexual and gender-based violence. Why is it that courts in eastern DR Congo prioritize gender crimes despite considerable logistical challenges, while courts in South Africa, home to a far stronger legal infrastructure and human rights record, have struggled to provide justice to victims of similar crimes? Lake shows that state fragility in DR Congo has created openings for human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to influence legal processes in ways that have proved impossible in countries like South Africa, where the state is stronger. Yet exploiting opportunities presented by state fragility to pursue narrow human rights goals invites a host of new challenges. Strong NGOs and Weak States documents the promises and pitfalls of human rights and rule of law advocacy undertaken by NGOs in strong and weak states alike.

    • Challenges existing knowledge of human rights and transnational advocacy by demonstrating that NGOs often show more immediate, direct and visible results of their human rights advocacy in weak states than in strong ones
    • Advises policy-makers, practitioners, and donors in the fields of human rights and the rule of law of the unintended consequences of bypassing the central state in pursuit of narrow human rights goals
    • Authored by a scholar and practitioner possessing first-hand expertise in human rights advocacy, rule of law development, and legal capacity building across sub-Saharan Africa
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'In her meticulously researched book, Milli Lake illuminates a difficult topic with both rigor and compassion, questioning many preconceptions about justice and gender based violence in some of the world's most challenged courts.' Kathryn Sikkink, Ryan Family Professor, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

    'Milli Lake's book counterintuitively demonstrates that precisely the lack of state presence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo - a quintessential failed state - enabled courts backed by strong NGOs to tackle gender crimes. In contrast, strong states such as South Africa do not necessarily promote justice for victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Thus, Lake presents a very convincing case that areas of limited statehood can actually be well governed, while statehood as such is no panacea for justice. A must read for anybody interested in the governability of failed and fragile states!' Thomas Risse, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

    'Journalists and politicians often call Congo the 'rape capital of the world'. Milli Lake develops a fascinating, original, theoretically-rich, and nuanced analysis of this controversial issue. She goes beyond the clichés to reveal how, in contrast to South Africa, human rights activists in Congo have been strikingly innovative, and local courts surprisingly progressive, despite the tremendous challenges they face in their day-to-day work.' Séverine Autesserre, author of Peaceland and The Trouble With the Congo

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108419376
    • length: 320 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.59kg
    • contains: 5 b/w illus. 2 maps 1 table
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Law in unforeseen places
    2. Researching violence and law in South Africa's Western Cape and DR Congo's Eastern provinces
    3. Explaining state-level policy and practice
    4. Local justice institutions and opportunities created by state fragility
    5. Ordinary women in court: socialization and outreach from the ground up
    6. Hard fought victories: assessing the human rights benefits felt by victims of violence in DR Congo
    7. Justice for who? The unintended consequences of hard fought victories
    8. Conclusion: NGOS and state (un)making
    Appendix A: decisions in the field
    Appendix B: interviews with victims of gender violence
    Appendix C: DR Congo's criminal justice system
    Appendix D: South Africa's criminal justice system.

  • Author

    Milli Lake, London School of Economics and Political Science
    Milli Lake is Assistant Professor at the International Relations Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her work focuses on human rights, violence and state-building in weak, developing and post-conflict states. With over a decade of experience working on human rights and the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa, she has worked or consulted in varying capacities for organisations including the International Bar Association, USAID, the World Bank, Save the Children, the Human Rights Center at Berkeley School of Law; and the International Law and Policy Institute. Her research appears in International Organization, Law and Society Review, International Studies Quarterly and a number of other academic journals. She was the recipient of the American Political Science Association Comparative Democratization Section's 2014 'Best Fieldwork' award, and the 2014 University of Washington's Dean's Medal for the Social Sciences.

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