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Key Text Basic Policy for Legal Assistance of Japan

Author: Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
Date: 2001
Size: 15 pages (56 KB)

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What is Legal Assistance hoping to achieve? What is the best way to achieve this? What dangers arise from one country shaping laws in another, and how can these be avoided? This JICA report, prepared for the 2001 World Bank conference on Legal and Justice Reform, discusses the purpose of Legal Assistance, and identifies important considerations which must be borne in mind when one country provides Legal Assistance to another.

Legal Assistance is defined as “extending support to developing countries in their efforts to develop their law, which encompasses support for the drafting of specific bills, the creation of various legal systems for the implementation of laws and the capacity building of legal experts and practitioners”. Law is closely related to the direction societies take and to their social norms. It therefore only functions well as a means of controlling society if the laws conform to norms, customs and morals which have developed naturally within that society. In addition:

  • Introducing laws that neither reflect social norms nor allow for a dialogue between norms and laws is bound to fail
  • When societies with different cultures meet they may influence the shape of one another's societies, and perhaps transform one another's laws
  • The rapid growth of communications technology, combined with the end of the Cold War, has led many former socialist countries to attempt to rapidly transfer to market economics. This has meant that they have had to create a raft of new legislation to accommodate market economics
  • There are many organisations and individuals engaged in Legal Assistance, and their activities and approaches may vary
  • The Japanese contribution to Legal Assistance will also enhance growth and security in the international community
  • When a recipient country talks about, publishes in and teaches law in its own language the very status of the law is improved, its implementation becomes more visible and confidence is enhanced. This is when Legal Assistance has fulfilled its mission.

It is vital to meet the urgent economic needs of countries shifting to market economies and to make laws practicable for the recipient societies when providing Legal Assistance. Countries must be allowed and encouraged to help themselves, rather than outsiders persuading them to accept a template which may or may not suit the recipient society. Other conclusions include:

  • Legal Assistance should not be confined solely to drafting specific bills, but should also focus on implementation and capacity building
  • If the government of a recipient country is to reform its legal code it must be truly committed and have popular support
  • While laws should correspond to the context of the society, Legal Assistance should also lead the society towards the end for which the laws strive
  • Prioritising the development of basic laws will, in the long run, increase the degree to which the rule of law in general is respected and promulgated, and will also lay the essential ground-work for more specific laws
  • Systematic and continuous assistance based on a long-range perspective is vital.

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Source: Japan International Cooperation Agency, 2001, 'Basic Policy for Legal Assistance of Japan,' paper for the World Bank Conference on Legal and Justice Reform co-hosted by the Government of Russia, 2001.
Author: Ulrike Grote ,
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA),
Organisation: Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA),