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Key Text Programming in Legal and Judicial Reform: An Analytical Framework for CIDA

Author: S Toope
Date: 1997
Size: 50 pages (131 KB)

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How can legal systems be evaluated? What are the indicators of a well-functioning system of justice? This study by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) looks at how legal and judicial reform fits within the overall mandate of CIDA. It suggests that whilst it is not possible to develop an inclusively supported definition of the rule of law, there are factors which may be said collectively to define a sound and effective legal system.

Reform of legal institutions is integral to the promotion of democratic development. It establishes a secure basis for contractual relations and promotes the participation of women in sustainable development. CIDA's engagement with legal and judicial reform programming is based on assumptions about the values it promotes. These include: (1) commitment to the promotion of equal human rights; (2) attachment to democratic processes of government; (3) a belief in the essential role played by civil society; (4) a faith that legal institutions and processes can be employed in an equitable fashion to provide remedies and to help organise effective governance structures; (5) an acknowledgement of the mutually supportive roles that can be played by public and private sector institutions.

Programmes undertaken by CIDA to promote these values and policies include:

  • Support for the reform of legal infrastructure
  • Human resource development, including regulatory reform through the establishment of independent tribunals and regulatory agencies
  • Assistance to constitutional reform processes by creating constitutional instruments and institutions
  • Supporting democratic development initiatives related to legal reform of electoral systems
  • Support for legal initiatives focusing around rights claims of dispossessed populations
  • Assistance to NGOs (legal advocacy groups) seeking to deliver programmes to encourage substantive legal reform and rights claims.

A strong consensus has emerged the existence of "political will" and public leadership are essential if structural reform initiatives are to be effective. There must also be effective local demand.

  • Establishing appropriate partnerships is one of the greatest challenges in planning legal and judicial reform programming.
  • The values being promoted through programmes, the technical needs of the programme, the capacity of the partners, and the compatibility of different cultures within partnerships must be considered.
  • Any needs assessment must consider the legal system as a whole.
  • The clearer the programme goals and project purposes, the more likely it is that a project will produce results that can be identified (if not measured).
  • It is important not to make claims to unrealistic goals.
  • The central purpose of results-based management should be kept in mind - that is to encourage monitoring, not evaluation.
  • Monitoring is iterative and is designed to encourage critical reflection during a project or programme and to permit adjustments that can enhance impact.

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Source: Toope, S. J., 1997, Programming in Legal and Judicial Reform: An Analytical Framework for CIDA, Canadian International Development Agency, Quebec
Author: Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA),