Monday, December 15, 2008

First Global Report on Parliaments and their use of ICT

The World e-Parliament Report 2008 represents a first effort to establish a baseline of how parliaments are using, or planning to use ICT to help them fulfill their responsibilities and to connect to their constituencies. The Report (by UNDESA and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, via Global Centre for ICT in Parliament) also provides an opportunity for sharing lessons learned and good practices from different regions of the world.

Below is a my attempted summary of the paper: 

  • The World e-Parliament Report 2008 is the first assessment from a global perspective of how information and communication technologies (ICT) are being used by parliaments across the array of activities under their mandates.

  • Methodology: survey responses of 105 global assemblies, experiences during World e-Parliament Conference 2007 and relevant public information.

  • Goals: to help legislatures evaluate the potential benefits of ICT in supporting parliament’s work, and to share knowledge.

  • Areas of analysis: 9 substantive areas  
            a) Parliament, ICT and the information society; 
            b) Vision, innovation and leadership; 
            c) Implementation: management, planning and resources;
            d) Infrastructures and services; 
            e) Documenting the legislative process; 
            f) Parliamentary websites; 
            g) Building a knowledge base for parliament; 
            h) Enhancing the dialogue with citizens
            i) Cooperation and coordination.

  • Results:
    • income level of each country plays a significant role in determining the extent to which ICT are adopted in parliaments. However, technological legacies in older legislative bodies, organizational flexibilities in younger parliaments, and the rapid evolution of technologies are all factors that can help level the playing field among legislatures.

    • Attaining a high level of performance in the application of ICT is not only dependent on financial resources; it also requires strong political leadership, active engagement of members, a skilled secretariat, well-trained technical staff, and a sustained commitment to the strategic implementation of information and communication technologies in the legislative setting.

    • Approximately 10 per cent of the surveyed parliaments have acquired extensive ICT capabilities across a wide range of key application areas. These include developing document management systems, utilizing open document standards, creating rich websites, and providing access to pending legislation. 

    • At the other end of the spectrum, many parliaments lack a strategic plan, an adequate ICT infrastructure, basic tools for members and staff, systems for managing documents and trained ICT staff. The status of the ICT systems and services of those parliaments that fall between these two groups is uneven. Many of them have implemented ICT applications that serve some of their most important functions. But many of these applications appear to be operating at the lowest level of utility and the technologies available are not taken advantage of. 

    •  An issue of special importance to parliaments in today’s world is improving dialogue with citizens. Some chambers and parliaments are exploring new approaches using the Web, and others have plans to test new ICT-based systems. However, currently very few legislatures have any systematic capabilities for interactive communication with citizens.

  • Conclusion:
    •  there is a significant gap between what is possible with ICT and what has actually been accomplished by parliaments thus far. 
    • On the other hand, survey responses clearly demonstrate that most parliaments have plans to improve their use of technology to support their goals and their work and that parliaments are acutely aware of the strategic importance of ICT.
    •  Narrowing this gap will require increased cooperation and coordination among parliaments, in partnership with other stakeholders, and a worldwide dialogue is becoming increasingly essential. 
    • Support for those parliaments with fewer resources is important- such as increasing the opportunities for sharing expertise and software at a global level and providing greater access to parliamentary information resources.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lessons Learned from Training Developing World in New Media

David Sasaki, from Global Voices will be giving a presentation at Berkman's luncheon series today, on his lessons learned over the last 18 months of training underrepresented communities (mostly in the developing world) on using new media tools to participate in the global conversation. Webcast here.
Announcement:     Most Kenyans spend idle afternoons discussing technology in trendy cafes. Nearly all Venezuelans oppose Chavez. And throughout the Middle East you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who supports sharia law. Or, at least, those would be your impressions of the world as shaped by the ever-expanding global blogosphere. As much as participatory media have democratized how we find out about the world around us, the new global voices tend to come from a narrow demographic: highly educated, urban, and upper-middle class. Rising Voices is a citizen media outreach initiative of Global Voices. Over the past year and a half it has provided micro-funding and training resources to 16 projects in communities in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe which previously had little or no online representation. David Sasaki, Global Voice's director of outreach, will discuss the successes, challenges, and lessons learned over the past 18 months of training under-represented communities how to take advantage of new media tools to participate in the 21st century global conversation.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wiki on Microjustice by Tilburg Law School's Microjustice Research Program

As part of the ILA's microtice initiative and Tilburg's Law School's Microjustice Research Program I blooged about earlier, Tilburg Law School has also started, since the start of this year, a wiki on microjustice. It seems to encompass microjustice as well as more general access to justice issues. Goals of the wiki include: 'share information, best practices and tools for microjustice', and anyone is welcome to register and contribute.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tilburg Law School starts a Microjustice Reteach Program

Tilburg Law School, part of Tilburg University located in southern Netherlands, was an early partner to ILA's microjustice initiative through professor J.M. Barendrecht. In fact, the initial concept was presented in a paper co-authored between ILA and the school. I'm taking the liberty of reproducing the school's program on microjustice, from its website, as follows (UPDATED: see also it's various useful microjustice publications as well as the team's contact information): 

The Microjustice Research Program
The Microjustice Research and Innovation Program supports the development of Microjustice. Microjustice is an innovative bottom-up approach to access to justice. It aims to deliver justice to the people at the base of the pyramid in a way similar to micro-services that serve needs for credit, savings, insurance, and healthcare. It strives to make access to justice affordable and sustainable.

Project Information

Background and concept:
Management of interpersonal (resource) conflict is essential for economic growth, peace and stability. Microjustice is an innovative approach that strives to make access to justice affordable and sustainable, through focus on:
Family disputes, property conflict, and labor issues: they disrupt lives. In essence, these legal problems are about people's investments in their homes, land, family, business, and work. Protecting their rights in these investments is essential for economic development. Legal systems - formal or informal - are often not accessible for the poor. Improving access to justice; that is what microjustice is about.
The traditional approach in rule of law and access to justice is top down: most resources are spend on building courts, drafting codes and constitutions, training judges and regulating lawyers. In recent years, however, the focus is shifting to a more bottom up approach. These legal empowerment initiatives focus and build on local needs and capabilities.
At the same time, several innovative approaches to delivering products and professional services to people living at the Base of the Pyramid have been developed. Microfinance initiatives broke down complex professional banking services like money lending and insurance into basic services that can be delivered locally and sustainably. These microservices have proven to be very successful.
New perspectives from the emerging discipline of dispute system design indicate that similar innovations are possible for legal services: microjustice. The Microjustice Research Program integrates a number of research projects that focus on obtaining deep insight in the functionality of the justice system and bring forth innovation (in the form and standardized tools and products). The focus is on five basic tasks that the justice system supports:

  • Meeting > Incentives and reasons to meet and change the status quo;

  • Talking > Structuring communication and negotiation;

  • Sharing > Divide assets, money, time and other issues in a fair way;

  • Deciding > Neutral decision making in case clients do not agree;

  • Stabilizing > Transparency of relationships and reasons for compliance.

  • Approach and Strategy

    Within the Microjustice Research Program, a number of tools and products are developed and tested locally, which can be used to design sustainable, effective and accessible dispute systems. Knowledge and research methods from a number of disciplines are combined (legal theory, comparative law, social psychology, victimology, sociology, institutional economics, micro economics, negation theory, conflict studies, dispute system design, etc), as well as modern information technologies. With these tools and products, major contributions can be made to the development of microjustice and legal empowerment initiatives as well as to the development of an evidence based dispute system design.
    TISCO cooperates with local partners (ngo's and universities), Oxfam Novib, the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL), the Benelux Base of the Pyramid Learning Lab, the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences (department of Organisation Studies) and the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration (department of Organisation and Strategy) of Tilburg University. TISCO participates in the Microjustice Initiative.

    The Great Firewall is only one small part of Chinese censorship

    It seems that the Great Chinese Firewall is in conversations everywhere these days. I myself posted about my lack of access to this blog every time I visit Beijing. But yet, especially given this report I blogged about last year, that is only a part of the means of control. I'm reminded to remind my readers about this fact after coming across Rebecca Mackinnon's blog post last month, which I really liked because she gave a more personal insight on Chinese censorship than her recent AWSJ article.  

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Youtube channel for UNDP Legal Empowerment of the Poor

    In addition to the website I announced earlier, UNDP a few months ago has also set up a youtube channel under the username LegalEmpowerment1. You can subscribe to it. I'm hoping that there will be more useful and powerful content than the typical conference/workshop presentations and PR-type interviews that are currently uploaded. While still pretty PR-ish, this video about the Kenyan Toi Market (which includes Madeline Albright  giving a speech), and which subject matter was used as a case study in the Commission's Report, is interesting- the on-the-ground stories can be replicated in Asia and other developing countries.

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    UNDP Legal Empowerment Website:

    I first blogged about the UN Commission of the Legal Empowerment of the Poor in a 2005 post here, and pointed readers to their website through my 2006 post here. Since then I've posted some of their followings and also some activities I've been involved with. Following the Forum in Davos in January 2007 and the launch of their report earlier this year in June (2008), the Commission announced the closure of the Commission site (which will be archived and still accessible), and the launch of the UNDP Legal Empowerment site.  

    I will write more about the report soon (although I'm sure that there will be articles on the internet soon if not already), but for now, I would say that I'm pretty impressed at how methodological the group had been in terms of meeting its mandate and timeline. More than anything, including substance, I am most glad that this issue has been put into the global agenda. I'm excited to see how it will evolve and how I will continue to be a part of it.

    Microjustice4All Website Launched

    In addition to conversations about launching a second pilot after its year or so experience in Bolivia, ILA has launched a website for microjustice called Microjustice4All ( There is some basic information, but I would like to introduce the concept of microjustice (though I've blogged about it previously) from the horse's mouth:

    What is Microjustice

    In countries where a large part of the population lacks sufficient resources to subsist, access to a series of basic rights (like civil documentation and registration of property) often becomes a very difficult task; full of obstacles, lacking information and often financially inaccessible. In other words, for people in the most vulnerable groups it is especially difficult to exercise rights which are officially recognized and provided by the State.

    What is Microjustice

    The main concept of microjustice is empowering the poor through giving them access to their rights. Inspired by microfinance, microjustice is an international initiative that aims to facilitate access to the basic legal needs for the poorest sectors of the population and, in doing so, allowing them the same enjoyment of rights as the rest of the population. This initiative, as that of microservices in general, is based on the principles of solidarity and sustainability.

    The UNDP recognises four main pillars of microjustice: access to right, property right, labour right and business right. Locally, many other kinds of rights (like educational rights, reproductive rights, rights of religion) can be relevant.

    Why use the term Micro?

    Micro does not refer to Justice itself, which is neither micro nor macro but rather an all encompassing term. The term Micro is chosen referring to:

    1. The minimum or basic needs of people for them to feel citizens in full enjoyment of their rights

    2. A service provided on an individual level, developing individualized solutions

    3. Emphasize the parallel that exists between Microjustice, microfinance and microinsurances and borrowing from them the term micro.

    Saturday, July 19, 2008

    California Bar Association Sanctions Legal Training in Virtual World

    One of the reasons why I love California- technology, and progressiveness (well, most times...). From the Chronicle of Higher Education: (the WSJ article is also pretty interesting)

    (Update: 14/11/2008  You can visit the SL Bar Association for upcoming CLE topics and speakers.)

    California Bar Association Sanctions Legal Training in Virtual World

    In a sign that virtual reality is becoming mainstream, a program in the virtual world Second Life, on the application of law in virtual worlds is counting for continuing legal education credit by the State Bar of California.
    The blog, Legal Pad, states the four-part speaker series, which is sponsored by the Second Life Bar Association, began Tuesday with 25 avatars in attendance. The first session lasted two hours and included a discussion about copyright and trademark infringement.
    The session went well except for a few glitches, the blog reports. “Some couldn’t log on, some couldn’t hear, and then there was the fashion crisis. Kate Fitz, the Sacramento County law librarian who was instrumental in getting accreditation for the program, said a glitch caused her ‘nice suit skirt’ to look like bike shorts.”
    The Wall Street Journal also ran an article Thursday that says virtual worlds “have quietly slipped into the mainstream.”—Andrea L. Foster

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Philippines Supreme Court Forum on Access to Justice 6/30- 7/2

    I attended the Supreme Court of Philippines's forum Access to Justice from June 30 to July 1. Called "Forum on Increasing Access to Justice: Bridging Gaps and Removing Roadblocks", the Court received input from different stakeholders of the justice system, particularly the sectors that are most vulnerable, regarding their issues and concerns on access to justice, particularly through the judicial system, and recommendations on how the Court may address the same.

    The Forum was held simultaneously through video conferencing in Manila, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro. Materials from the conference can be accessed here: I hope to have more personal analysis of the issues on hand soon!

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Summary of the Report by UN Commission on Legal Empowerment

    I mentioned in a recent post on The UN Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor that the commision has released its 110-page report called Making the Law Work for Everybody. I would like to provide a brief summary of the report, and some initial thoughts about it. 

    Legal Empowerment Initiative was launched in 2005 by a group of developing and industrialized countries including Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, Tanzania and the United Kingdom, and has a mandate to complete its work in 2008, which it did so with great speed. The Commission is hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and consisted of a stellar cast inclusing 19 former or current Pressidents, Madeleine Albright and Hernando do Soto (a Peruvian economist that some view as controversial). It aims to make legal protection and economic opportunity not the privilege of the few but the right of all. (If you have been folowoing this blog, you will know that I have been reporting on the Commission's major activities.)

    Basis of Analysis
    Unlike the dominant Rule of Law practices which focus overwhelmingly on top-down institutional reform, the Commission bases its analysis from the bottom-up angle of the poor. In particular, it considers the actual rights and legal issues that impact the poor. 

    • Four billion people worldwide are excluded from access to justice and the rule of law//legal protection and opportunities
    • In some countries, over 70% of economic activities take place in the informal sector, without legal protection. They lack basic rights such as having a legal identity, property rights, legal employment and business rights. The importance and size of this sector has long been underestimated in the context of international development.
    • The majority of those living their daily lives in the informal sector are women. 
    • The Commission formed five working groups which examined these areas
      • access to justice and the rule of law (how access to justice and the rule of law can be reformed in individual countries in order to ensure universal legislation that safeguards the poor)
      • property rights (how property rights can be used as tools for fighting poverty)
      • labor rights (how a minimum package of labour rights is required for workers) and 
      • (small) business rights (how the poor involved in economic activities can be given both protection and opportunities through laws and regulations)
    • These are the four 'pillars' that form the foundation for legal empowerment of the poor. Specifically they are:
      • an enabling framework for access of justice and rule of law (beginning first with legal identity)
      • property rights (especially land-related)
      • labor rights
      • small business rights
    • Relationship between these four pillars: There is a connection between the right to safe and protected work, the right to do business within the bounds of the law, and property rights. These are three pillars that must be put in place through a process of legal empowerment reforms in which everyone is given access to justice and the rule of law, beginning with legal identity of each person. 
    • Some specific recommendations to these pillars are: 
      • focusing at the local level 
      • access to services at the local level
      • affordable legal aid, 
      • ensuring quick and simple property registration procedures
      • basic rights for people in the informal sector. 
      • property rights should be safeguarded
      • property rights can be used creatively; eg collective rights should be used as a tool for providing the poor with access to technology and financial services. 
      • the various rights are interrelated
    • Recommendations on Implementation:
      • Legitimize implementation on overarching frameworks such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other legal covenants, which already bound governments who have ratified them
      • Analysis based on each contextual situation is needed (including the current policy environment), and timing must be right
      • Start with change and some (not all) areas, grow in increments
      • Manage stakeholders, mobilize allies: Form networks of pro-poor change involving leaders across society, especially among 'policy champions' 
      • Learn from lessons learned by other countries, remain flexible
      • International efforts, including collaboration and creating of legal instruments

    My initial response:
    • There is inherent benefit in propelling this issue to the global agenda through these high-level UN Commissions;
    • Whatever the details, the angle of bottom-up legal empowerment offers a complimentary (and maybe even alternative) to the practice of law and development via the current Rule of Law paradigm. 
    • It is certainly a more compelling idea, tied in with the concept of freedom/rights, the MGDs, and being people-centered. 
    • My worry about the focus on the four pillars is that other important legal issues might be excluded in certain situations- such as right against violence. Moreover, many other systemic factors need to be taken into account, and are usually the causes of poverty (not the lack of legal empowerment). 
    • My worry too, is isolating legal empowerment as a 'sector' or 'program' at the risk of the lack of integration with other sectors of development- legal rights, like 'eduction' or 'technology;  should cut across all sectors. 
    • While there is some acknowledgement of the roles of NGOs and civil society, their important role in implementation seems to be overshadowed by that of national governments and international organizations. 

    Sunday, June 22, 2008

    WSIS (World Summit on Information Society) progress?

    Three years after WSIS ended, it is hardly mentioned in development circles anymore. I remember the hype surrounding WSIS when it was happening, when ICT was the new kid on the block.  Last month, the Commission of Science and Technology for Development (the Commision charged with monitoring the implementation of WSIS as well), convened in Geneva and issued a draft resolution on WSIS implementation. The following summary is adapted from UNCTAD's website.

    ( For information only - Not an official record )
    Quick Links:
    At its eleventh session, held from 26 to 30 May 2008 in Geneva, the Commission on Science and Technology for Development... also undertook the second annual review of progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the two-phase World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The Commission recommended one draft resolution and three draft decisions to the Economic and Social Council for its consideration.

    The draft resolution, entitled "Assessment of the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society", notes that:
    • while in general the digital divide may be shrinking, a new form of digital divide is emerging in terms of difference in quality and speed of access to information and communications technologies. 
    • that the disparity in cost and quality of access between developed and developing countries continues and that in developed, high-income economies, the average cost of a broadband connection is significantly less than in developing countries, both in nominal terms and as a percentage of the average monthly income.
    • that the gender divide still persists in quality and variety of means of access to the Internet and information and communications technologies in both developed and developing countries. 
    • in many countries there is inadequate coherence and complementarity between national information and communication technology policies and national development and poverty reduction strategies.
    The resolution calls for 
    • increased efforts for funding of and investment in information and communications technologies, in order to advance broadband access, including wireless access. 
    • the mainstreaming of information and communications technology policies into national development or poverty reduction strategies, with a strong emphasis on gender equality. 
    • all stakeholders to increase their efforts to reduce the disparity in cost of access, through, for example, the establishment of Internet exchange points and the creation of a competitive environment, both at the backbone network and local levels. 
    • international and regional organizations to assess and report on a regular basis on the universal accessibility of nations to information and communications technologies.
    The resolution notes 
    • the lack of indicators to measure progress towards achieving the targets set out in the Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society at its first phase, 
    • that the architecture for the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, as defined in the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, is rather complex and has also presented limitations in involving participation of all stakeholders, in particular those from developing countries. 
    • the importance of developing benchmarks and indicators, including impact indicators, in the context of the Partnership on Measuring Information and Communication Technologies for Development. 
    • the need for United Nations entities that act as action line facilitators to work with all stakeholders to establish milestones, deadlines and calendars for their action lines. 
    • that WSIS action line facilitators should report not only on progress made, but also on obstacles and difficulties encountered by all stakeholders in regard to the commitments and recommendations pertaining to their respective action line at the regional and international levels. 
    • invites the international community to make voluntary contributions to the special trust fund established by UNCTAD to support the review and assessment work of the Commission regarding WSIS follow-up.

    Thursday, June 5, 2008

    UN Report on Legal Empowerment of the Poor launched

    The UN Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor has released its report called Making the Law Work for Everybody- you can view and download a copy by clicking that link. The video of the official launch of this report on June 3rd can be viewed here

    I was a part of the consultative process, which was typically fraught with disagreements and debates, often over the smallest details. So I am also aware that, like all UN events, resulting publications are necessarily broad and high level to achieve some level of consensus. In a few weeks I hope to provide a brief summary and critique of the report. Safe to say now that, no matter what the substance, I am happy that this has been propelled onto the international agenda. 

    (update 7/9/09: My summary and initial response to the report is posted here

    Friday, May 30, 2008

    First (?) book on the 'new' Legal Empowerment? Access to Justice and Legal Empowerment (Meene and Rooij, 2008)

    I just came across this title via an announcement email, but haven't had a chance to view or buy the book. In light of all the recent high level activity surrounding the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, it will be interesting to see what this book has to offer. Here is the official announcement:

    Access to Justice and Legal Empowerment By Ineke Van De Meene, Benjamin Van Rooij:

    This volume answers a number of basic questions about this new trend in legal development cooperation: reforms to improve poor people's access to justice and to promote their legal empowerment. How law can aid development has been the focus of much recent discussion among development workers, scholars and policy makers. Indeed, reforms to improve poor people's access to justice and to promote their legal empowerment comprise the latest trend in legal development cooperation. This volume answers a number of basic questions about this new trend, such as access to justice and legal empowerment entail and its importance; the obstacles the poor and marginalised face in seeking justice and empowerment through the legal system; and the reforms proposed by these approaches to legal development co-operation. Furthermore, it outlines important considerations for policymakers concerning access to justice and legal empowerment reforms.

    Ineke van de Meene is member of the Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Development of Leiden University. Benjamin van Rooij is senior lecturer in law, governance and development at the Van Vollenhoven Institute, Faculty of Law, and Department of Chinese Languages and Cultures, Faculty of Arts, Leiden University.

    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    Asian Development Bank's Law and Policy Reform Department

    Given my previous post on ADB's special issue on Access to Justice, I was curious about what prominence, if any, it has given to Access to Justice programming. While the World  Bank has a 'Justice for the Poor' program (which I assume is rather alternative given the Bank's usual 'top-down' approach), the Asian Development Bank (ABD)'s topic for law is still designated rather traditionally as 'Law and Policy Reform'.  It is interesting to me where law and development programs fit organizationally- it tells me a lot about what the organization thinks of that program philosophically. What strikes me, even more than other topics, is that the law and development field is conceptualized and  practiced very differently from organization to organization. At some point, I hope to find (or create?) a matrix showing the differences between the major aid agencies, but for now, take a look at how ABD views its law and development work (UPDATE: note that legal empowerment is a subset of its 'law and policy' reform work, post 2009):

    From ABD's Law and Reform FAQ web page (UPDATED 7/11/10):

    Law and Policy Reform
    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is law and policy reform (LPR)?

    “Law and policy reform” is the term used by ADB to refer to reform initiatives aimed at addressing institutional and structural impediments to fighting poverty. Such initiatives target laws, policies, and institutions that can either promote or hinder economic, social, and human development. They aim to promote good governance, establish rule of law, create a legal and policy environment that fosters sustainable economic growth, and protect basic rights and freedoms.

    Why is ADB engaged in law and policy reform?

    ADB’s LPR work focuses on creating a legal environment that fosters economic growth– one that establishes rule of law and resolves disputes relating to contractual or property rights. ADB believes that rule of law is also necessary to enable individual, social, and economic development.  ADB’s Poverty Reduction Strategy has redefined poverty as being beyond the mere lack of material resources, extending to lack of power and choice. Without addressing policies and institutions that exclude the poor and vulnerable from partaking of the benefits of economic development, poverty will continue to exist.

    What are ADB’s law and policy reform activities?

    ADB’s law and policy reform activities have included the following:
    • legislative and institutional reforms
    • promotion of transparency and the right to information
    • training of lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and other government officials
    • capacity building to undertake legal and justice sector reforms
    ADB is involved in the following strategic areas of law and policy reform:
    • access to justice
    • anti-money laundering
    • competition law
    • cross-border insolvency
    • financial sector reform
    • gender and the law
    • justice sector reform (reforms in the judiciary; prosecutorial service; police service; and other institutions engaged in the delivery of justice)
    • labor and human resource law
    • land registration and land tenure issues
    • legal aspects of regional integration
    • legal empowerment
    • legal identity and social inclusion
    • secured transactions
    • trade and globalization

    Does law and policy reform reduce poverty?

    Economic growth needs to be supported b a good legal system. The Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has suggested that, in the absence of legal reforms, it could take several hundred years for developing countries to catch up with the rest of the world. Furthermore, growth will only benefit all people when everyone is legally empowered. Legal empowerment gives the poor a better ability to play an informed role in decisions that affect their lives.
    ADB’s Poverty Reduction Strategy is underpinned by three pillars: pro-poor sustainable growth, social development, and good governance. Each of these pillars is embedded in legal concepts. Reform of legal frameworks have much to do with ADB’s effectiveness in carrying out its mandate under the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

    What does law and policy reform do to fight corruption?

    Law and policy reforms are essential to anticorruption efforts. They increase public institutions’ accountability, set up independent and impartial anticorruption agencies, and build the capacity of relevant government offices and regional agencies to detect and fight corruption. An example of law and policy reform efforts targeting corruption are anticorruption components in ADB’s assistance to developing member countries affected by the 2005 tsunamis.
    Law and policy reform efforts combating anticorruption promote the principles elucidated in ADB’s Anticorruption Policy.

    Is law and policy reform concerned with basic rights?

    Numerous ADB policies and strategies, while not always using human rights language, contain principles of human rights. For example, the Social Protection Strategy explicitly refers to core labor standards. Law and policy reform activities that promote these ADB policies and strategies support the protection of basic rights.

    How can I obtain ADB support for law and policy reform initiatives?

    Developing member countries (DMCs) that wish to obtain ADB support for law and policy reform initiatives should include support for law and policy reform initiatives in the Country Partnership Strategy (CPS, formerly the Country Strategy and Program) developed in conjunction with DMC government officials and  ADB staff and based on policy dialogues.
    Technical assistance grants and project loans can be accessed for regional or subregional law and policy reform initiatives. DMCs that wish to obtain such support may propose the inclusion of regional law and policy reform initiatives in the Regional Cooperation Strategies and Programs (RCSPs) that ADB prepares for each of the five subregions covered by ADB’s regional departments.

    Read more about ADB's program on their website

    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    Microjustice Initiative Launched

    I have posted previously about the cutting edge and entrepreneurial 'microjustice' concept. Earlier this year, ILA (International Legal Alliances, which spearheaded micorjustice under founder Patricia van Nispen), launched a pilot in Bolivia. The aim is to develop methodologies and show proof-of-concept. It also aims to develop manuals, policies and other tools that can be adapted in other countries. (Update: Microjustice Bolivia now has a web presence at

    In light of the recent momentum gaining around the UN's MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and the related concept of  'legal empowerment of the poor' (which I am following and is a Category of this blog), Microjuctice fits nicely as a subset of a subset. It seems that there is more and more frustration with the typical 'court/legal' reform project, and we are looking for alternative solutions. Microjustice not only is alternative, it is incredibly innovative . It does not seem to purport to 'save the world', just to address a gap that ILA thinks is missing in the law and development sector. Compared to the bigger players in the field, I like and respect this humble approach. At this stage, ILA makes no claim other than "This seems to be a possible alternative solution, and here are the supporting reasons so you know we're not just riding on fads. So let's try it out. If it works, let's adapt it!'. Very smooth. 

    Saturday, April 19, 2008

    Materials available for Future of Legal Education Conference

    Webcasts of conference sessions are now available along with abstracts, papers, and powerpoint presentations for the International Conference on the Future of Legal Education, of the Georgia State College of Law, held 20-23 Feb. I am looking forward to examining the materials to see if we might be able to apply any features to the project design for educating new lawyers in Afghanistan.

    Official Announcement:

    "The conference took as its point of departure a highly critical report on American legal education recently issued by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching:Educating Lawyers. The report calls for fundamental changes in both the structure and content of legal education in the United States to integrate realistic and real-life lawyering experiences throughout the curriculum, and challenges American law schools to produce lawyers who are not only smart problem-solvers but also responsible professionals committed to service of both clients and the larger society. The conference brought together leading legal educators from both the United States and other countries with leaders from the legal profession.

    Two questions were asked:

  •  First, if one was charged with starting a new law school, how would one implement the Carnegie recommendations? What would the budget look like? How would the faculty be recruited and structured? What would one want the student body to look like? What would be the curriculum?

  •  Second, how would an existing law school transform itself into the kind of law school envisioned by the Carnegie Report? What would a 5 year transition plan look like?

  • Sunday, April 13, 2008

    Open Web Standards for Legal Informtics (with a focus on legislative documents)

    "Working Paper 2: Legal Informatics and Management of Legislative Documents” commissioned by the Global Centre in preparation for the World e-Parliament Report 2008, aims at providing an overview of the state of the art and of the prospects of the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the legislative domain, in particular concerning the management of legislative documents. The paper introduces the concepts of legal informatics and legislative informatics, describes the evolution of the ICT-based management of legislative documents and identifies and evaluates emergent approaches, focusing on those based on open standards.

    Tuesday, April 8, 2008

    Linkedin Group for Microjustice

    Jin Ho Verdonschot of Tilburg Univeristy (secifically TISCO - Tilburg Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Civil Law and Conflict Resolution Systems) has started a LinkedIn Group for the Microjustice Initiative

    (UPDATE 4/2009- A year after this last post, Maaike de Langenpolicy specialist on legal empowerment of the poor for the United Nations Development Program, created the 'Legal Empowerment Early Adopters' LinkedIn Group)

    (UPDATE 10/2009 See my recent post on the newly created Ning Group for Legal Empowerment of the Poor, created by UNDP Asia Regional Office in Bangkok. Reflective of... NGO coordination!)
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