"The love of rationalistic simplification . . . leads people to think that in the mere technicalities of law they posses the means and the power to effect unlimited changes . . . [Such an illusion is] cherished by lawyers who imagine that, by drafting new constitutions and laws they can begin the work of history all over again, and know nothing of the force of traditions, habits, associations, and institutions."
Guido de Ruggiero, The History of European Liberalism, 1927
Sound legal frameworks are among the prerequisites of economic growth and social development. The processes by which laws and regulations are made and enforced, are the foundation of a society governed by the rule of law. Legal reform is an ongoing and incremental process that involves the executive and legislative branches, law reform commissions, non-governmental organizations, and the public. For most countries, legal reform pursues the adoption of new international standards, responds to social and economic issues, expands access to justice or improves court administration. Effective and coherent legal reform requires a comprehensive and sustained approach that avoids importing models that may fall into conflict with national legal and socioeconomic norms. Effective legal reform also promotes opportunity, security, and empowerment for the world's poor.
Although legal reform efforts often involve institutional restructuring and capacity improvement, the rewriting of old laws and the drafting of new laws remains a necessary component of most legal reform projects. Many development projects that are not overtly aimed at legal reforms, such as those concerned with improvements in management, infrastructure and human capacities, will often require changes in the substantive law. Yet even in stable and economically prosperous countries, creating sound laws and regulations can be a challenge. In developing and transitioning countries, political interference, limited human skills, shortages of resources, and the constraints imposed by weak enforcement agencies, often make the job of law drafting even harder.
Reformers sometimes also fall into the trap of believing that new laws can solve problems simply by virtue of the fact that the laws exist. Yet laws that are overly complex, or that fail to take into account weaknesses in the agencies empowered to enforce them, or that tend to conflict with the social context in which they are made, can create more problems than they solve. Governments struggling to create a minimal political consensus may find that their laws, often subjected to last minute amendments, can conflict with one another or fail to serve the purposes intended. Similarly, a tendency to over-regulate can lead to laws that are ignored, harming the reputation of the legal system as a whole.
This page comprises four main topics related to law reform.
Legislatures/Law Making Bodies
Legal Transplants and Legal Culture
Legal Framework for the Justice Sector
Relevant Standards defined by Laws and Regulations
Sector Specific Laws
Financial Sector Laws
Law and Gender