International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Fall 2016/Winter 2017 Issue


Peace and Judicial Systems Amid the Fourth Industrial Age

Bradford C. BrownBy: Bradford C. Brown, Senior Advisor, Center for Judicial Informatics Science And Technology of the Mitre Corporation

The Fourth Industrial Age is evolving quickly, with research and development spreading all over the world and estimated at $1.9 trillion. The Internet of Things will add all kinds of products to the network. Yet in the end, the protection of people, assets, property and data will always matter. That protection falls to governments through law enforcement and judicial systems. It mattered in the era of steam engines, and it will matter in the era of cyber-physical systems. A global transformation—driven by technology—is coming. With it will come the need for a range of enforcement issues. The flow of data has a value, as does the fusion of technology, machines and human productivity. Those benefits will only follow where citizens and businesses feel protected and have a sound judicial system as a last resort.

Without a civil environment: investment will not flow, business will not start, and no government will be perceived as fair without the rule of law in place and without people’s access to justice. Is it any wonder then that some of the most corrupt countries in the world are also in the top 10 least peaceful countries in the world, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index[1] and Vision of Humanity’s Global Peace Index.

Global Peace Index: Corruption Perception Index
162 Syria 167 Somalia
161 Iraq 167 North Korea
160 Afghanistan 166 Afghanistan
159 South Sudan 165 Sudan
158  Central Africa Republic 163  South Sudan
157 Somalia   163 Angola
156 Sudan 162 Libya
155 Democratic Republic of Congo  161 Iraq
154 Pakistan 158  Venezuela
152 North Korea 158 Guinea-Bissau
152 Russia  158 Haiti

Historically, these countries have struggled with internal and external conflict, political instability, lack of credibility, aggressive military posturing, a lack of transparency, corruption, and weak governmental and judicial systems. Some, like South Sudan, which became the 193rd member of the United Nations in 2011, are trying to reform and provide for judicial independence as best they can. Others, like North Korea, have vague laws and a criminal justice system that Kay Seok, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, described as a “sham” in her August 2010 article “From a North Korean Hell to Home.”[2]

Establishing a visible and transparent judiciary is challenging if the government is perceived as weak, corrupt and opaque. If the laws are vague or replete with local customs, then the lack of consistent outcomes calls into question the fairness of the judicial system. Justice means that remedies are perceived as predictable, fair and even handed.

“It is difficult to overstate the negative impact of a corrupt judiciary: it erodes the ability of the international community to tackle transnational crime and terrorism; it diminishes trade, economic growth and human development; and, most importantly, it denies citizens impartial settlement of disputes with neighbors or the authorities. When the latter occurs, corrupt judiciaries fracture and divide communities by keeping alive the sense of injury created by unjust treatment and mediation. Judicial systems debased by bribery undermine confidence in governance by facilitating corruption across all sectors of government, starting at the helm of power.”

As a practical reality, judicial reform is difficult for a number of reasons. Re-drawing judicial maps and trying to make judicial systems more efficient often meet the head winds of entrenched political regimes. Frequently, judicial reform requires lawyer and judge training that is simply not available. Backlogs typically abound, and court administration and case management are non-existent. Case data and precedent are not often collected, causing differing results when the case facts are similar.

Cheryl Gray, the director of the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, stated, “If a dense and efficient network of commercial relationships is to flourish in an economy, it needs a credible, low-cost, formal legal process to which aggrieved parties can turn when all else fails.”

The world is becoming more complex day by day. So too are the geopolitical issues and risks facing people and businesses. At the core of resolving these conflicts and generating the promise of globalization is the rule of law. McKinsey & Company estimated in its Urban World: The Shifting Global Business Landscape report that by 2025, half of the world’s companies will be based in emerging markets. Operating in these markets will produce risks in areas of:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Geopolitics
  • Finance
  • Judicial and law enforcement
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Governmental weakness
  • Local custom.

Localization will be important in emerging markets; therefore, judicial systems and law enforcement must be perceived as fair and must operate without bias or corruption. If judicial systems are to be the last resort, then they must provide access to justice in a reasonable period of time and must lead to remedies that are predictable.

Peaceful countries can only exist when the judicial system is capable of supporting civilian and business issues and when the perception is that that process is fair. Sentiment analysis and social media can take the pulse of a society and sense the beginnings of unrest if a weak government or corrupt judicial system is being perceived as providing uneven treatment to citizens or related legal cases.

In the end, though, the rule of law and access to justice must accompany advancements in technology. We must never reach the point that Albert Einstein alluded to: where technology exceeds our humanity..

Note: The author's affiliation with The MITRE Corporation is provided for identification purposes only, and is not intended to convey or imply MITRE's concurrence with, or support for, the positions, opinions or viewpoints expressed by the author.

[1] Transparency International. (2016, March 1). “Corruption Perceptions Index 2015,” Transparency International. Available:

[2] Seok, Kay. (2010, August 27). “From a North Korean Hell to Home.” Available:

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