Rule of Law Project in Serbia

In July I spent two weeks in Serbia visiting 5 law libraries and 3 court house libraries, evaluating their IT infrastructure for USAID. As part of their Serbian Rule of Law Project, I was preparing a report to help USAID make an effective donation computers, servers and database licences to the libraries. The goal of the donation is to give the law shcools and courts access to a wide variety of European Union legal resources, so that they can be better positioned for entry into the EU somewhere down the road. You can see the blog entries from my trip here, or a PDF of the same here. As an example of what the law schools are facing, the Nis Law Faculty (in southern Serbia) has 4100 students (compared to 350 at UVic), and has 21 public access computers, only two of which are available to their 4000 undergraduates.

I’ve been back from Serbia for just over a month now, and I in talking to people about my experiences there, I find myself repeating a few things over and over to people. It seems ironic that there is a perception in the media (true or not) that the US and Europe aren’t getting along well very, but the US currently spending large amounts of money to help Serbia integrate with the EU. The US has gotten into a mess in Iraq, but continues to do good in other parts of the world, for which they don’t get a lot of credit.

Another interesting thing I was told by one of my drivers, who also happens to be a bee keeper, is that right after the US bombing took place, the quality and quantity of the honey production by his bees increased dramatically. Now why would that happen? It may have something to do with the fact the the US destroyed most of Serbia’s heavy industry in the bombing, and in the process eliminated the source of most of the pollution in Serbia. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) many of the plants have now been repaired and the pollution if flowing freely again. It’s not surprising that Mirko (the bee keeper) now reports that honey production is down to where it was before the bombing again.


  1. Thanks Rich for this information. It is always an eye-opener to travel to other parts of the world and realize how spoiled we are with access to information. In 2000, I was lucky enough to go to East Africa with the CBA International Development Committee to look at the role that technology could play in access to law-related information for African judges and lawyers. Technology does hold some promise since the print-based law libraries there tended to be small with out-of-date materials. The report on our initiative is available online at:


  2. I did a similar project for USAID in Lesotho ten years ago, but unfortunately nothing came of it. Shortly after we submitted our report, the king of Lesotho was killed in an auto accident, and the ensuing unrest prevented the implementation of any of our recommendations.