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

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