Legal and Judicial Reform through Development Assistance: Some Lessons

By Toope, Stephen J. | McGill Law Journal, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Legal and Judicial Reform through Development Assistance: Some Lessons


Toope, Stephen J., McGill Law Journal


Legal and judicial reform plays an important role within the framework of international development assistance: stable and just legal systems support the promotion of security, equity, and prosperity. The author's goal is to assist those who am interested in designing or working on justice initiatives by contributing to the academic reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of legal and judicial reform initiatives.

There is a need for comprehensive and early analyses of the condition, status, and requirements of the governance system where intervention is being considered. Of critical importance in any such analyses is the need for precision first, in describing the elements that constitute legal systems, and, second, in positing useful markets for specific goals. The author proposes indicators of systemic health, while stressing that each indicator will vary in relevance in each country's situation.

The author goes on to set out the principles for sound legal and judicial reform programming. First sound reform initiatives should plan for long-term engagement because of the need for local commitment to the processes and goals of reform endeavors. Second, program designers cannot afford to ignore the question of indigenous social economic, and cultural values because a lack of sensitivity to these values can lead to resistance, unsustainability, and ultimately failure. Finally, major projects should only be considered and undertaken once experience has been gained on more modest initiatives,

Based on these principles, the author presets diverse programming options, focussing on issues relating to sequencing, the recognition and seizure of opportunities with respect to the development of reform constituencies,?? well as issues relating to regional initiatives and donor coordination. Some of the potential risks inherent in various forms of justice programming are also highlighted in the hope of assisting project designers and implementers to ask the right questions at the outset of legal and judicial reform initiatives.

The author concludes by discussing issues relating to the evaluation of the results of judicial reform programs, emphasizing that the means and ends of such programs are in constant interaction. Performance assessment schemes must include a complex combination of quantitative and qualitative results indicators and must also include risk assessment and reassessment mechanisms risks can change, multiply, and abate during project implementation.

An example of how the author's analytical framework was employed in assessing Vietnam's legal system and in recommending programming options is provided in the appendix.

Le reforme juridique et judiciane joue un role important au sein du cadre plus large de l'assistance au developlment international: les systemes juridiques stables et justes soutiennent la promotion de la securite, de l'equite et de la prosperite. Le but de l'auteur est d'assister ceux qui sont interesses a conceptualiser ou a travailler a atteindre des initiatives de justice en contribuant a la reflexion academique concemant les initiatives de reformes juridiques et judiciaries.

Il existe un besoin de faire des analyses comprehensives aussi tot que possible de la condition, du status et des besoins du systeme de gouvernance ou une intervention est consideree. D'importance capitale est un besoin de precision quant a la description des elements qui constituent les systemes legaux en premiere, et puis afin de positionner des reperess utiles pour arriver aux buts specifiques. On propose des indices pour evaluer l'etat systematique de salubrite du systeme, en soulignant que indice sera plus ou moins pertinent etant donnela situation du pays concerne

L'auteur continue en etalant les principes necessaires pour un programme de reforme legal et judiciaire sain. Premierement, ces initiatives devraient prevoir un engagement a long terme parce qu'il est necessaire d'avoir un engagement local des processus et des buts des efforts de reforme. …

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Legal and Judicial Reform through Development Assistance: Some Lessons
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