Law Reform Process

In the past, law reform efforts in postconflict and developing countries have been hampered by an excessive focus on the outcomes of law reform versus the process. International and national actors have rushed to get laws drafted without adequately investing in the sort of comprehensive process that ensures that laws are acceptable to the population and consistent with its values and needs. Participation in law reform processes has been insufficient and processes have lacked transparency. Given that “participation in decision-making” and “legal and procedural transparency” are core components in the definition of “rule of law” (see Rule of Law Definition), law reform processes need to be improved.

A legitimate law reform process is open, transparent, participatory, and inclusive. It should include input from a wide variety of stakeholders including justice actors, civil society groups, vulnerable and minority groups, and the general population. Moreover, it should include a range of multidisciplinary actors—not just lawyers, but also anthropologists, political scientists, economists, and others. As Lord Wilberforce, of the British House of Lords, once said: “Law reform is too important to be left to the lawyers.”

The following resources share lessons and experiences from past law reform processes in postconflict and developing countries. They also outline practical ways to ensure that a law reform process complies with rule of law and takes into account the views and needs of the general population.