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Legal Reform

To reform laws is to reform societies. At IDLO, this is something that we have had thirty years to learn. And there are no more important laws than fundamental laws – national Constitutions. One of greatest, the Constitution of the United States of America, has served that nation well for nearly a quarter of a millennium. Constitutions encapsulate a vision. In countries struggling to overcome trauma, as is the case of Kenya; struggling to be reborn, as in Somalia; or struggling to be born at all, as in South Sudan, Constitutions respond to a collective need for unity and renewal.

But Constitutions are also highly technical documents. They set the parameters for law and justice in a given jurisdiction. For this reason, they require legal resources and expertise unavailable in many developing nations. By providing those resources and expertise, IDLO is proud to have assisted several countries through complex constitutional processes.

Criminal Justice Reform

In Ukraine, as in most eastern European states, the role of the Public Prosecutor is oversized in relation to the Judiciary and the rest of the legal community. The institution is historically prone to abuse of power and corruption, and skewed towards protecting the interests of the state over those of society or the individual. Regard for human rights is scant; fair trial standards are rarely applied. As a consequence, public dissatisfaction is rife. However, current political will to change the system has opened up an opportunity for meaningful reform. 

Mali's 'Justice FM'

Mali’s crisis of 2012-2013, in which two-thirds of the country was occupied by Tuareg rebels and Islamic extremists, was accompanied by brutal rule in the North and a near-collapse of the state. Many victims have yet to see redress for the abuses they suffered; justice remains elusive.

Facilitating Peace and Reconciliation in Kyrgyzstan

Following the April 2010 Revolution in the Kyrgyz Republic, an interim government came to power promising to end many of the injustices that had prompted the overthrow of the country’s previous two presidents. Many reforms carried out during the interim period were focused on improving the foundation and application of the rule of law. Despite initial steps made towards progress in this area, the political events of 2010, including ethnic violence, significantly undermined potential progress in the rule of law.

Afghanistan: Criminal Law in the Service of Women

Good laws are one thing; implementation is another. Texts and statutes are critical instruments in advancing the rule of law -- but their benefits are limited if those tasked with their application, let alone their intended beneficiaries, fail to understand them. Where a gap develops between the law and what the legal profession makes of it, abuse and injustice will thrive.

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Key Initiatives

  • ​In June 2015, IDLO commenced the project: Researching the Impact of Land Tenure Registration on Land Disputes and Women’s Land Rights in Burundi. Land Tenure Registration (LTR) programs involve issuing proof of ownership to holders of land rights to increase their legal certainty. Such programs are undertaken for a variety of reasons. While much is known about the impact of LTR on factors like access to credit and agricultural output, there is a gap in knowledge of its impact on land disputes, particularly in post-conflict settings.
  • In Burundi, land tenure registration is the primary way for the government to deal with the large number of land disputes across the country. A series of pilot programs aimed at resolving land rights issues have been initiated in recent years. To date, however, it is unclear whether these pilot programs have had their intended effect of reducing the number of land disputes.
  • In 2010, the people of Kenya overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new Constitution, following a protracted struggle for constitutional reform spanning over two decades. Under the new Constitution, the elections of 2013 were the first in Kenya’s multiparty history with Electoral Dispute Resolution (EDR) processes in place. With these mechanisms, disputes can be resolved legally, peacefully and speedily – as opposed to resulting in violence or being allowed to drag through the courts. 
  • The protracted civil war and the weak state control over territory in Somalia has enabled new criminal activities to take hold, including illegal checkpoints, maritime piracy, cybercrimes, money laundering and counterfeiting, human trafficking, extortion, terrorist financing, and the smuggling of weapons and food over Somalia’s porous borders. The Somali Federal Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and national police are well aware of these newer forms of criminality plaguing Somalia, but are unable to effectively combat them.
  • It is well recognized that discrimination against people living with HIV and affected populations (such as injecting drug users and women in the sex industry) blocks HIV prevention efforts. Discrimination discourages HIV testing and can limit access to care and treatment services. IDLO is working to provide legal information and representation to HIV-affected and key populations in Benin. Through collaboration with local organizations, IDLO is building local capacity in Benin and strengthening the legal response to help those living with HIV assert their rights and address intolerance.
  • Rates of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) remain high in Uganda due to cultural practices, continued internal displacement, and low capacity of the justice system. IDLO is working to advance accountability for SGBV crimes committed in times of or after armed conflict in Uganda. 
  • The Programmatic Framework for the Indonesia-Netherlands Rule of Law Fund builds on Indonesian development plans and continues the efforts of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Jakarta to support the consolidation of the rule of law and reform agenda. The primary objective of the Rule of Law Fund is to support the development of effective, accountable and inclusive justice sector institutions, ensuring equal access to justice in Indonesia.
  • Funding and spending patterns of the General Procuracy of the Kyrgyz Republic (GP) have remained relatively invariable since Kyrgyzstan became an independent state in 1991. Stagnant funding has had negative implications for the GP, and the Prosecutors’ Training Center (PTC) requires support to train and retrain prosecutors in accordance with changing Kyrgyz legislation and international human rights standards. Additionally, gender inequalities within the GP remain a significant challenge.
  • An effective prosecution service is critical to the provision of justice, stability and peace in Somalia. But the absence of a robust, independent and competent prosecutorial service has contributed to a climate of impunity, increasing the proliferation of both low-level and serious crimes, including terrorism, corruption and gender-based violence throughout Somalia.
  • Renforcement de la chaine pénale au nord du Mali. En 2016, l’IDLO a lancé un programme de cinq ans au Mali, financé par le Gouvernement des Pays-Bas : « Renforcement de la chaîne pénale au nord du Mali ».
  • Kyrgyzstan’s new Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code are set to enter into force on January 1, 2019, with the aim of improving the system of law enforcement in the country. Specifically, the new Criminal Code seeks to reform criminal law, procedure and types of criminal punishment, promote the integration of the Code into security measures, institute probation, introduce mediation in criminal matters, and support new mechanisms and approaches for the social integration of persons convicted of criminal wrongdoing.
  • Indonesia has a high number of overlapping or contradictory laws and regulations. This results in ineffective administration, lengthy processes and obstacles for economic development. While the Government of Indonesia has taken certain measures to enhance regulatory reform, regulatory functions are currently scattered across several governmental institutions, creating a web of uncoordinated mandates. There is therefore a need for a central body or unit within the government that oversees regulations.
  • Justice within the context of commercial law is premised on the fact that an effective commercial justice system meets and facilitates the specialized needs of the business community and the private sector at large. However, there are persistent challenges related to the dispensation of commercial justice in Kenya.
  • In recent years, the Kyrgyz Republic has adopted a new Criminal Code and reformed the Criminal Procedure Code with the stated aim to humanize the system of law enforcement in the country. The new Codes were developed by a group of dedicated technical experts that have subsequently supported the development of a training program aimed at building the capacity of all key stakeholders - judges, police, defense lawyers, and prosecutors - on the foundational understanding of the codes.
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