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Mitchell, Arthur "International Symposium on Judicial Independence" [2003] ADBLPRes 5 (6 August 2003)

International Symposium on Judicial Independence
Regional Technical Assistance No. 5987

Opening Remarks
Arthur M. Mitchell
General Counsel
Asian Development Bank

ADB Headquarters, Manila
6 August 2003

Honorable Chief Justices, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning.

I wish to extend my warmest welcome to all of you who have come from many parts of Asia to attend this symposium. Encouraging exchanges of ideas among Asia's policymakers is an important part of ADB's law and policy reform – what we call LPR - activities. As a regional development bank, ADB very much believes in promoting such dialogue as part of the legal and judicial reform process.

In 1995, ADB issued a policy on Governance. This was the first Board-approved policy on governance by a multilateral development bank. For ADB, governance has four main elements, namely: accountability, participation, predictability, and transparency. Law permeates all of these four elements, but particularly predictability, as the consistent interpretation and application of laws constitutes an essential element of stability. Thus, LPR is at the heart of efforts aimed at good governance.

Over the years, ADB has provided numerous loan and technical assistance projects with LPR components. In fact, "mainstreaming" of law and policy in ADB operations is a prominent feature of ADB's development work. Lawyers from the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) work in multi-disciplinary teams to identify country- or sector-specific legal issues that are relevant to the successful implementation of ADB-funded projects, and, in consultation with key local stakeholders, OGC lawyers craft solutions to such legal problems. In addition, ADB supports LPR work through stand-alone technical assistance grants (TAs). Such TA grants have focused on judicial reform; private sector development; legal training; dissemination of legal information; and environmental protection. To date, OGC has processed and administered 63 TAs.

During 2001 and 2002, ADB continued to pursue LPR as a means of reducing poverty and strengthening good governance with its first stand-alone loans for judicial reform. Two policy loans to Pakistan amounting to $330 million are supporting the Government’s Access to Justice Program, which is designed to strengthen legal protection for all, and in particular to empower the poor and other vulnerable groups. ADB’s assistance also includes a $20 million technical assistance loan to translate the program’s legal and policy framework into sustainable institutional and organizational arrangements.

The Access to Justice Program will give greater meaning to the rule of law in Pakistan. It will help the poor, support gender sensitization and provide resources to reform the police and the judiciary. The program will enable the poor to exercise their legal rights and protect their property. The program will provide free legal advice and advocacy for the poor by civil society, including lawyers and nongovernment organizations, and promote awareness campaigns about legal rights in the national language. The program will promote opportunities to encourage the appointment of women judges and provide training courses in gender sensitization for the judiciary and the police. The program will also strengthen judicial independence by separating the judiciary from the executive branch of government and ensuring adequate funds for the judiciary to meet its mandate. The program will contribute to an enabling environment for private sector-led growth.

Other activities in judicial reform in 2001 and 2002 included technical assistance to the Philippines to strengthen judicial independence in the context of judicial accountability. The Philippine project is supporting the judiciary's independence, accountability, impartiality, and competence. Under the TA, a framework for the judiciary’s fiscal and administrative autonomy will be designed; the appointment process and the accountability and incentive systems will be reviewed; and the capacity of the judicial training academy will be strengthened. Extensive regional consultations were carried out in the Philippines at the end of 2002, with representatives from the judiciary, executive and legislative branches of government, and civil society.

Today’s symposium is being held under a TA: Judicial Independence. This TA was approved two years ago and workshops have already been held. The TA deals with a sensitive and yet crucial issue, centered on strengthening governance. The objectives of this TA are to analyze factors necessary for achieving and strengthening judicial independence in the diversified conditions that prevail in different developing countries. Are there regional good practices that we can all learn from? Or are there any lessons that teach us what not to do if we want to achieve judicial independence? The TA explores a complex set of issues while the country studies provide rich backgrounds and experiences in individual developing member countries. The overview report focuses on the various issues and themes relating to judicial independence. The focus of this symposium is on these issues and themes. As we proceed over the next two days, I am sure that the richness of the overview report will be further supplemented by the collective wisdom and experience that this symposium has brought together. Each one of you is uniquely placed to make a contribution to the discussions over the next two days.

I wish you all a very successful symposium and look forward to participating in your rich discussions.

Thank you.

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