Vera’s International Program collaborates with national governments, civil society leaders, and international agencies to improve systems people rely on for justice and safety, providing technical assistance on a wide range of topics including the development of rule of law indicators, the use of empirical research methods for justice reform in both common and civil law countries, and the development of participatory models of community accountability for criminal justice institutions. Vera is also a founding member of the Altus Global Alliance, a partnership of civil society organizations in Brazil, Chile, India, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States.

Particularly in developing countries, the prevalence of crime and the quality of criminal justice institutions are matters of profound and immediate importance. Weak justice institutions allow criminals to operate with impunity and corruption to flourish. When fear dominates a society, it stifles the lives of all citizens, particularly those living in poverty.

Providing access to an effective and respectful security and justice sector is increasingly recognized as essential to good governance—affecting a government’s ability to gain and retain legitimacy.  Accountability engenders a positive participatory cycle: it gives government leaders the incentives they need to provide the transparency that in turn allows nongovernmental organizations to strengthen their capacity to engage their governments.

To help governments achieve these goals, Vera employs several strategic objectives: 

  • equipping government leaders to initiate and manage criminal justice reforms; 
  • equipping civil society leaders to manage and initiate criminal justice reforms; 
  • expanding the use of empirical methods by both government and civil society to assess progress in security and justice and hold institutions accountable; 
  • creating public awareness of criminal justice innovations and fostering civil society organizations and governments working together to design and implement criminal justice reforms; and
  • mainstreaming gender through the provision of technical assistance to government and civil society.

Vera’s International Program seeks to collaborate with our international partners in devising innovative methods for empirical research as well as in the transfer of capacity to our colleagues around the world. The program has a particular interest in developing and implementing successful projects in data-poor conflict and post-conflict environments. Vera’s International Program has collaborated with United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UK Department of International Development, and the American Bar Association’s World Justice Project among others. 

In addition, 2011 marks Vera’s10th anniversary of working collaboratively with reformers in the People’s Republic of China to facilitate justice innovations and policy changes that are rooted in experience, guided by empirical methods, and consistent with international human rights standards. 

Why Work Internationally?
Vera research and analysis has yielded a wealth of information about what works and what doesn’t in U.S. justice systems. Vera’s unique contribution to international justice reform is its ability to share and spread its core, research-based methodology so that others around the globe can press forward for reforms that are locally informed. 

For more information, please contact Caitlin Gokey.



DFID Helpdesk on Conflict, Crime, and Violence Programming

At the request of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Vera Institute of Justice, as part of a network of eight expert organizations, has been providing technical assistance since 2011 to DFID offices in conflict and post-conflict countries as part of DFID’s Conflict, Crime and Violence (CCV) Results Initiative project, also known as the Helpdesk Project. This assistance aims to address the absence of systematic expert support for measuring the impact of conflict, security, and justice programs in developing countries and countries emerging from conflict, as well as a lack of coherent outreach across DFID. The goals of this standardization are better impact measurement and information gathering.

Impact Assessment of UN Rule of Law Activities at National Level

At the request of the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General (EOSG), from May 2012 to November 2012, the Vera Institute of Justice conducted a field-based impact assessment of rule of law activities implemented by UN peacekeeping missions in Colombia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Legal Reform in China

Vera works collaboratively with reformers in China to facilitate justice innovations and policy changes that are rooted in experience, guided by empirical methods, and consistent with international human rights standards. Vera’s work in China, supported by the Ford Foundation, builds on the knowledge and drive of local universities and government partners.

Police Station Visitors Week

Since 2009, the Vera Institute of Justice has been working with its partners in the Altus Global Alliance to implement Police Station Visitors Week, a unique yearly event where community members are invited into local police stations to rate their stations using a simple assessment tool. The project is designed to build local community-based organizations’ capacity to influence policing programming. Police Station Visitors Week works to engage grassroots advocacy groups focused on empowering and improving opportunities among those who are poor and marginalized, including women, youth, ethnic and religious minorities, older citizens, and people with disabilities by strategically engaging government entities on the quality of services provided by the police institutions.

The Vera Fellowship in Justice Research and Innovation

The Vera Fellowship in Justice Research and Innovation helps young researchers from China develop and test evidence-based innovations to improve China’s justice system. Fellows work with Vera staff for one month and visit Vera demonstration projects, spin-offs, and relevant agencies in the U.S. justice system as they design pilot programs and evaluations to be implemented in China. Recent fellows have developed programs to prevent the use of torture in police interrogations, reduce the number of juveniles in detention, and make the public criminal defense system more accessible and effective.

UN Rule of Law Indicators Project

Through the United Nations Rule of Law Indicators Project, Vera seeks to advance the rule of law by providing national authorities, the United Nations, and donor countries with a practical way to identify the strengths of, and challenges to, their nation’s law enforcement agencies, judicial system, and correctional system. The project focuses on developing indicators—statistical references that present an overview of change in a given system—for criminal justice institutions, but does not strive to rank countries.

Vera-Altus Justice Indicators

Vera and three fellow Altus Global Alliance members formed the Vera-Altus Justice Indicators Project to develop a set of indicators that could be used in diverse international settings to identify problems with adherence to the rule of law and chart progress toward improving access to justice.

Measuring progress toward safety and justice: a global guide to the design of performance indicators across the justice sector
Produced by a team of researchers at the Vera Institute, this guide to the design of performance indicators is written for government officials and program managers around the world who want to improve the delivery of safety, security, and access to justice. In plain language, the Guide describes...
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Evaluating the professional standards and ethics of security and justice institutions globally is daunting. Working with a myriad of government structures and social dynamics poses significant challenges to any non-governmental organization (NGO)...
Jim Parsons
Vice President and Research Director
Caitlin Gokey
Senior Program Associate, Center on Immigration and Justice

UN Secretary-General Lauds International Program’s Work

curly quote leftWe have made progress in helping vulnerable groups. But we need to do more to include their perspectives when we design rule-of-law activities and when we carry them out. We must also support innovative initiatives like the deployment of civilian justice and corrections experts on missions. And we should use the United Nations Rule of Law Indicators, designed to monitor criminal justice institutions, during and after conflicts.curly quote right

—Ban Ki-moon