Reinventing the Rules

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Event Recap: Rule of Law in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

I always get excited every time I come across a new rule of law organization I haven’t discovered yet and the Africa Justice Foundation (AJF) is no exception! Based in the UK, they work exclusively with African public sector lawyers to conduct training programs, build professional skills, and provide scholarships to African attorney’s who wish to study law in the UK or US. A few months back, they invited distinguished speakers to the House of Parliament to discuss the importance of rule of law in the post-2015 development agenda. Check out their summary below!

Credit: Wim Opmeer

Credit: Wim Opmeer

The speakers reflected on ‘A New Global Partnership’, the report of the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which was tabled at the United Nations in May 2013 which recognised the fundamental role played by the Rule of Law in economic development. The Report also noted that good governance, respect of due process, sound institutions, enforcement of rules and procedures are all crucial elements for development.

Cherie Blair noted that the UN had invited citizens to participate in a global debate to decide what will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. She noted that the Rule of Law was not included in the MDGs, despite having a prominent place in the Millennium Declaration, and underlined that the time had now come for it to be included in the post-2015 development agenda. Ms Blair underlined that the Rule of Law was vital for security and justice, in addition to ensuring economic development. She provided insights on the nexus between the rule of law and development in three key areas: property rights, the enforcement of contracts, and reducing corruption. Ms Blair underlined the necessity of an effective legislative framework, strong legal institutions, and an independent judiciary in order to foster economic development. In this regard, the Rule of Law plays a pivotal role in proving for the successful and equitable exploitation of natural resources such as minerals, oil and gas; in addition to ensuring that the informal sectors contribute to GDP.

Prof. Sir Jeffrey Jowell CMG QC, Director of the Bingham Rule of Law Centre, noted that the Rule of Law has often been viewed as a ‘western concept’ and suggested that it was necessary to redefine it to its basic concepts. According to the Venice Commission Report, Jowell elucidated that the Rule of Law must be founded on law; it has to be predictable, enforceable and provide access to justice. In relation to economic development, Prof. Jowell indicated that the Rule of Law would be an effective instrument in reducing investment risk, enhancing security and stability required for sustainable economic growth. Sir Jeffrey also noted the need to inject the notion of Judicial Review as an important component in the administration of the Rule of Law as is the case with the South Africa constitution. Judicial Review would provide the citizens with the right to scrutinize and challenge government decisions especially in the areas where citizen’s lives are greatly affected.

H.E William Nkurunziza, High Commissioner of Rwanda to the UK, offered a reflection on how the Rule of Law played a vital role in transforming Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. He referred to it as an engine for economic growth and a prerequisite for attracting investment. His Excellency underlined that the Rule of Law is not a ‘western concept’ but an important condition for economic development. He remarked that the absence of a Rule of Law led to the genocide which resulted in anarchy and prolonged instability. Post-genocide, Rwanda has become a stable, secure and more economic prosperous nation owing to the backbone of an effective legal infrastructure. In Rwanda, the body of law is a catalyst in the areas of Company law, insolvency and international investment. According to the World Economic Forum, Rwanda is rated 65 most competitive place to do business in the word and according to the World Bank, it is rated at 40 in the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ global rankings.

Professor Steve Lee elucidated the impact of law on development citing the 1950s & ’60s law and development movement which was unsuccessful owing to the lack of legal institutional capacity. Prof. Lee stated that the law has a profound impact on economic development in the sphere of trade law and on the enforcement of contracts. For the Rule of Law to be effective in economic development, firstly local legal infrastructure must be in place. Secondly, the Rule of Law must be geared towards addressing development needs and not to meet a political agenda. Thirdly, the Rule of Law should not be cumbersome to the continuing implementation of economic development, for example in the case of enforcing intellectual property rights. Fourthly, there should be an understanding that the Rule of Law should be designed to meet local traditions and applicable to the local jurisdictions and not transplanted from western legal traditions. Finally, the Rule of Law should be allowed to engender values and ideologies that suit the social fabric of a society.

Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP, former International Development Secretary, emphasized that the Rule of Law was absolutely an essential ingredient in lifting the lives of people out of poverty; citing examples from Sierra Leone and Rwanda. Mr Mitchell underlined that the Rule of Law required a place in the post-2015 development agenda in order to foster women rights and property rights; while in the extractive sectors, the law was paramount in enabling transparency and accountability. He noted the implementation of the UK Bribery Act as an important tool in the impact of African economic development as it prevents British companies from ignoring corruption. In this regard, Mr Mitchell is of the opinion that the implementation and alignment of international law geared to the values underpinning the Rule of Law will provide a way forward in this global debate.

To learn more about AJF’s work, click here:

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This entry was posted on December 26, 2013 by in Event Recap and tagged , , .

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