Asian Development Bank's Law and Policy Reform Department

Given my previous post on ADB's special issue on Access to Justice, I was curious about what prominence, if any, it has given to Access to Justice programming. While the World  Bank has a 'Justice for the Poor' program (which I assume is rather alternative given the Bank's usual 'top-down' approach), the Asian Development Bank (ABD)'s topic for law is still designated rather traditionally as 'Law and Policy Reform'.  It is interesting to me where law and development programs fit organizationally- it tells me a lot about what the organization thinks of that program philosophically. What strikes me, even more than other topics, is that the law and development field is conceptualized and  practiced very differently from organization to organization. At some point, I hope to find (or create?) a matrix showing the differences between the major aid agencies, but for now, take a look at how ABD views its law and development work (UPDATE: note that legal empowerment is a subset of its 'law and policy' reform work, post 2009):

From ABD's Law and Reform FAQ web page (UPDATED 7/11/10):

Law and Policy Reform
Frequently Asked Questions

What is law and policy reform (LPR)?

“Law and policy reform” is the term used by ADB to refer to reform initiatives aimed at addressing institutional and structural impediments to fighting poverty. Such initiatives target laws, policies, and institutions that can either promote or hinder economic, social, and human development. They aim to promote good governance, establish rule of law, create a legal and policy environment that fosters sustainable economic growth, and protect basic rights and freedoms.

Why is ADB engaged in law and policy reform?

ADB’s LPR work focuses on creating a legal environment that fosters economic growth– one that establishes rule of law and resolves disputes relating to contractual or property rights. ADB believes that rule of law is also necessary to enable individual, social, and economic development.  ADB’s Poverty Reduction Strategy has redefined poverty as being beyond the mere lack of material resources, extending to lack of power and choice. Without addressing policies and institutions that exclude the poor and vulnerable from partaking of the benefits of economic development, poverty will continue to exist.

What are ADB’s law and policy reform activities?

ADB’s law and policy reform activities have included the following:
  • legislative and institutional reforms
  • promotion of transparency and the right to information
  • training of lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and other government officials
  • capacity building to undertake legal and justice sector reforms
ADB is involved in the following strategic areas of law and policy reform:
  • access to justice
  • anti-money laundering
  • competition law
  • cross-border insolvency
  • financial sector reform
  • gender and the law
  • justice sector reform (reforms in the judiciary; prosecutorial service; police service; and other institutions engaged in the delivery of justice)
  • labor and human resource law
  • land registration and land tenure issues
  • legal aspects of regional integration
  • legal empowerment
  • legal identity and social inclusion
  • secured transactions
  • trade and globalization

Does law and policy reform reduce poverty?

Economic growth needs to be supported b a good legal system. The Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has suggested that, in the absence of legal reforms, it could take several hundred years for developing countries to catch up with the rest of the world. Furthermore, growth will only benefit all people when everyone is legally empowered. Legal empowerment gives the poor a better ability to play an informed role in decisions that affect their lives.
ADB’s Poverty Reduction Strategy is underpinned by three pillars: pro-poor sustainable growth, social development, and good governance. Each of these pillars is embedded in legal concepts. Reform of legal frameworks have much to do with ADB’s effectiveness in carrying out its mandate under the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

What does law and policy reform do to fight corruption?

Law and policy reforms are essential to anticorruption efforts. They increase public institutions’ accountability, set up independent and impartial anticorruption agencies, and build the capacity of relevant government offices and regional agencies to detect and fight corruption. An example of law and policy reform efforts targeting corruption are anticorruption components in ADB’s assistance to developing member countries affected by the 2005 tsunamis.
Law and policy reform efforts combating anticorruption promote the principles elucidated in ADB’s Anticorruption Policy.

Is law and policy reform concerned with basic rights?

Numerous ADB policies and strategies, while not always using human rights language, contain principles of human rights. For example, the Social Protection Strategy explicitly refers to core labor standards. Law and policy reform activities that promote these ADB policies and strategies support the protection of basic rights.

How can I obtain ADB support for law and policy reform initiatives?

Developing member countries (DMCs) that wish to obtain ADB support for law and policy reform initiatives should include support for law and policy reform initiatives in the Country Partnership Strategy (CPS, formerly the Country Strategy and Program) developed in conjunction with DMC government officials and  ADB staff and based on policy dialogues.
Technical assistance grants and project loans can be accessed for regional or subregional law and policy reform initiatives. DMCs that wish to obtain such support may propose the inclusion of regional law and policy reform initiatives in the Regional Cooperation Strategies and Programs (RCSPs) that ADB prepares for each of the five subregions covered by ADB’s regional departments.

Read more about ADB's program on their website

Microjustice Initiative Launched

I have posted previously about the cutting edge and entrepreneurial 'microjustice' concept. Earlier this year, ILA (International Legal Alliances, which spearheaded micorjustice under founder Patricia van Nispen), launched a pilot in Bolivia. The aim is to develop methodologies and show proof-of-concept. It also aims to develop manuals, policies and other tools that can be adapted in other countries. (Update: Microjustice Bolivia now has a web presence at

In light of the recent momentum gaining around the UN's MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and the related concept of  'legal empowerment of the poor' (which I am following and is a Category of this blog), Microjuctice fits nicely as a subset of a subset. It seems that there is more and more frustration with the typical 'court/legal' reform project, and we are looking for alternative solutions. Microjustice not only is alternative, it is incredibly innovative . It does not seem to purport to 'save the world', just to address a gap that ILA thinks is missing in the law and development sector. Compared to the bigger players in the field, I like and respect this humble approach. At this stage, ILA makes no claim other than "This seems to be a possible alternative solution, and here are the supporting reasons so you know we're not just riding on fads. So let's try it out. If it works, let's adapt it!'. Very smooth. 

Materials available for Future of Legal Education Conference

Webcasts of conference sessions are now available along with abstracts, papers, and powerpoint presentations for the International Conference on the Future of Legal Education, of the Georgia State College of Law, held 20-23 Feb. I am looking forward to examining the materials to see if we might be able to apply any features to the project design for educating new lawyers in Afghanistan.

Official Announcement:

"The conference took as its point of departure a highly critical report on American legal education recently issued by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching:Educating Lawyers. The report calls for fundamental changes in both the structure and content of legal education in the United States to integrate realistic and real-life lawyering experiences throughout the curriculum, and challenges American law schools to produce lawyers who are not only smart problem-solvers but also responsible professionals committed to service of both clients and the larger society. The conference brought together leading legal educators from both the United States and other countries with leaders from the legal profession.

Two questions were asked:

  •  First, if one was charged with starting a new law school, how would one implement the Carnegie recommendations? What would the budget look like? How would the faculty be recruited and structured? What would one want the student body to look like? What would be the curriculum?

  •  Second, how would an existing law school transform itself into the kind of law school envisioned by the Carnegie Report? What would a 5 year transition plan look like?

  • Open Web Standards for Legal Informtics (with a focus on legislative documents)

    "Working Paper 2: Legal Informatics and Management of Legislative Documents” commissioned by the Global Centre in preparation for the World e-Parliament Report 2008, aims at providing an overview of the state of the art and of the prospects of the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the legislative domain, in particular concerning the management of legislative documents. The paper introduces the concepts of legal informatics and legislative informatics, describes the evolution of the ICT-based management of legislative documents and identifies and evaluates emergent approaches, focusing on those based on open standards.

    Linkedin Group for Microjustice

    Jin Ho Verdonschot of Tilburg Univeristy (secifically TISCO - Tilburg Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Civil Law and Conflict Resolution Systems) has started a LinkedIn Group for the Microjustice Initiative

    (UPDATE 4/2009- A year after this last post, Maaike de Langenpolicy specialist on legal empowerment of the poor for the United Nations Development Program, created the 'Legal Empowerment Early Adopters' LinkedIn Group)

    (UPDATE 10/2009 See my recent post on the newly created Ning Group for Legal Empowerment of the Poor, created by UNDP Asia Regional Office in Bangkok. Reflective of... NGO coordination!)

    Linkedin Group for Microjustice

    Jin Ho Verdonschot of Tilburg Univeristy (secifically TISCO - Tilburg Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Civil Law and Conflict Resolution Systems) has started a LinkedIn Group for the Microjustice Initiative

    (UPDATE 4/2009- A year after this last post, Maaike de Langenpolicy specialist on legal empowerment of the poor for the United Nations Development Program, created the 'Legal Empowerment Early Adopters' LinkedIn Group)