Legal and Judicial Reform: Strategic Directions
Author: World Bank
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Sustainable and equitable economic growth and poverty reduction cannot be achieved without the rule of law. The World Bank’s mission is to promote growth and alleviate poverty, which has resulted in a stronger focus on legal and judicial reform. This report from the Bank outlines its activities in the sector and explains its strategic approach.
The rule of law prevails where: the government is bound by law; every person is treated equally under the law; the human dignity of individuals is recognised and protected by law; and justice is accessible to all. It is said to be in effect when a society possesses meaningful and enforceable laws and contracts, basic security and access to justice. A well-functioning legal and judicial system allows states to regulate their economies and empowers individuals to contribute to development. Providing a legal environment that inspires confidence among businesses fosters domestic and foreign investment. Jobs are created and poverty reduced. This is the kind of environment that the Bank’s legal and judicial reform strategy aims to create.
A country’s entire legal sector needs to function effectively, transparently and with due process. To this end, the Bank’s strategy focuses on three pillars: judicial reform, legal reform and access to justice. Major features include:
- Establishing an independent, efficient and effective judicial system. This is challenging where governments view the judiciary as an instrument for achieving political goals.
- Strengthening judicial effectiveness through a variety of activities. These are aimed at boosting independence and accountability, supporting judicial training and better court administration, and fighting corruption.
- Supporting the processes by which laws and regulations are initiated, prepared, produced, enacted and publicised. The law should provide valuable tools for everyday life.
- Carrying out law reform together with legal training. Laws should be drafted according to best practice and international standards, and with public participation.
- Improving access to justice by expanding the use of existing services and giving marginalised groups recourse to dispute resolution mechanisms.
Against a background of economic globalisation, the Bank aims to institute comprehensive ‘rule of law’ reforms that will improve the investment climate and allow the poor to benefit. To enable the impoverished and vulnerable to participate in economic growth, the Bank and its partners should:
- Pay special attention to laws and legal institutions that address inequality, such as anti-discrimination laws, consumer protection, labour laws, social security and indigenous people’s rights.
- Devise systems that empower people and give enforceable rights. They should provide redress if those in power seek to discourage competition.
- Encourage new market entrants by developing antitrust and anti-corruption laws, together with enforcement institutions and policies.
- Help create a climate of legal legitimacy that will provide confidence in the security of investments and persuade the losers in the global economy that the rules are fair and accessible to them.
- Support the implementation of transnational legal rules that provide a regulatory structure and legitimacy for the new global order. Such rules can help those who have failed to benefit from liberalisation.
- Work to develop long-term solutions, but at the same time adopt a flexible and innovative approach that reflects complex and changing realities.
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World Bank, 2003, 'Legal and Judicial Reform: Strategic Directions', Legal Vice Presidency, World Bank, Washington D.C.
Dr Gina Porter