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Key Text Swedish Development Co-operation in the Legal Sector

Author: Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (Sida)
Date: 2002
Size: 65 pages (104 KB)

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What are the key features of Swedish development co-operation in the legal sector? This report outlines the importance placed on judicial and legal reforms in achieving democratic governance, poverty reduction and equality. It describes international trends and makes recommendations for effective interventions. It also identifies future priorities for Sweden.

Fighting poverty is one of Sweden’s main development goals, and the judiciary is an essential instrument in this struggle. The judicial sector should be approached from a holistic perspective, including formal and informal systems. Swedish assistance is channelled through bilateral and multilateral funding mechanisms, as well as non-governmental organisations. So far it has been quite limited, focusing on formal judicial institutions and specifically police co-operation. More varied support has been given in Central and Eastern Europe, with the goal of helping some countries accede to the European Union. General trends in international development co-operation are identified, which are regarded as relevant to the legal sector. Factors specific to the sector include the proximity of the legal arena to political power, its potential to underpin human rights and the impact from years of neglect of its importance to economic and social development.

Swedish experience in the legal sector resembles that of other donors. Based on wider developments, a general framework for assistance is outlined. This should begin with a careful analysis of demand, possible opposition and potential agents for change. Other key aspects include:

  • Establishing the importance of genuine will for reform on the part of the recipient country. International norms and a country’s constitution should form the building blocks for interventions.
  • Presenting a variety of organisational and technical solutions, so that countries can choose what is most appropriate.
  • Conducting a sector analysis of connections between actors, including customary law and risks of corruption.
  • Ensuring greater co-operation among donor inputs, due to the importance of balancing different elements and the huge costs involved. Approaches should be broad and long-term.
  • Working towards extending access to the formal judicial system to all, with a focus on the poor and especially women. Informal inputs should also be developed.
  • Giving careful consideration to: the role and reform of customary law, measures that encourage growth, support for civil society and special demands in societies affected by conflict.

Sweden is most qualified to help strengthen the rule of law through assistance in the formal judicial sector. Thus, for now, the majority of its inputs are likely to be in this area. However, efforts to explore alternative forms of support should continue. Other considerations are to:

  • Encourage more Swedish lawyers to participate in development co-operation and to increase their engagement with development methodologies.
  • Focus on institutional co-operation in capacity development, which is defined as co-operation between two equal public institutions.
  • Recognise that growth in the sector may be relatively slow due to funding cutbacks, despite its importance for development.
  • Maintain up-to-date knowledge in the sector, which could include involving regional institutions and experts in Swedish projects.
  • Conduct further research to work out meaningful sector analyses in the legal arena.
  • Increase knowledge about how traditional legal systems relate to modern systems, with the aim of developing medium-term strategies to achieve justice for all.

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Source: Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (Sida), 2002, 'Swedish Development Co-operation in the Legal Sector', Sida
Author: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida),