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Opening remarks by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at Legislative Drafters' Forum

3rd MEETING OF THE
PACIFIC LEGISLATIVE DRAFTERS’ TECHNICAL FORUM
23 – 25 July 2012, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Suva

Opening remarks

Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Monday 23 July 2012

Parliamentary Counsels
and senior legal representatives of Forum Members countries
Representatives of development partners, regional and observer organisations
Distinguished Colleagues

Introduction

1. Welcome to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

2. We have not had an earlier opportunity to host this important gathering, and the Secretariat is therefore particularly pleased to be able to do so on the occasion of this, the third Meeting of the Pacific
Legislative Drafters’ Technical Forum.

3. The Forum Secretariat’s interest and engagement with efforts to develop and improve legislative drafting capacities and provisions in the region is long- standing. What you do is simply critical, in the maintenance of the rule of law, in enabling governments to develop the legislation necessary to give legal effect to national policies as well as commitments under regional and international treaties. The importance of Forum Island countries having access to high quality legislative drafting services is of the first order of priorities, and needs constantly to be highlighted.

Rule of law

4. Commitment to the rule of law is substratum to the Forum arrangements. In the language of the Pacific Plan, the Vision for the Pacific framed by Forum Leaders is for a region that is respected for the quality of its governance, the sustainable management of resources, observance of democratic values and for the defence and promotion of human rights.

5. These are objectives of high purpose necessarily anchored in the rule of law; underscored and elaborated as Forum commitments, values and principles in a range of regional instruments, including, for example, the Biketawa Declaration on Forum responses in times of crisis, the Honiara and Aitutaki declarations on law enforcement cooperation and on regional security and under the Forum’s Principles on Good Leadership and respect for the law and system of government.

Sharing experiences

6. You gather today in this Drafters’ Forum as professionals to compare and share the experiences of your countries’ policies and needs and to strategise with colleagues and neighbouring jurisdictions on ways to strengthen and improve services in your respective communities and also in the region, and to do so together with many friends and development partners of the region.

7. On behalf of member countries, I want to acknowledge the partnership representation at this meeting of countries and organisations [Commonwealth Secretariat and others], many of which have been most generous, for so long, in their simply invaluable commitment and contribution to the legislative drafting services and training support to all Pacific island countries.

Legislative drafting and regional efforts

8. As the Secretariat of the Forum we function, of course, to serve and assist member countries and to help facilitate activities of assistance and cooperation among Forum member countries and with the broader international community. A broad range of regional and international assistance has been developed over the years and undoubtedly these must continue, indeed, broadened and strengthened. I am sure you will use the opportunity of this Forum to consider effective and feasible ways of doing so.

9. Within the framework of the Pacific Plan, Forum Leaders recognise that region’s legal sector is one which may benefit from enhanced regional
cooperation. Indeed, in 2007, Leaders considered that the Forum should ‘explore the possibilities for regional support, including through pooling of resources and regional integration, in legal institutions and mechanisms providing legislative services, and in the area of judiciaries, courts and tribunals.’

10. In line with these considerations, the Secretariat is very committed to supporting initiatives such as your Legislative Drafters’ Forum, representing as it does a very practical way of promoting regional cooperation in the field of legislative drafting. Through the Drafters’ Forum, you will no doubt be able to learn from your colleagues about effective ways of addressing the region-wide issue of shortages of experienced national legislative drafters, as well as common issues relating to accessing professional training opportunities for staff, and securing external assistance, particularly on legislative proposals concerning highly technical or new policy issues.

11. We in the Secretariat are also interested in exploring other forms of regional cooperation in supporting the legislative drafting services of Forum island countries. As some of you would be aware, the Secretariat has been documenting the various forms of technical and training assistance that is available from a broad variety of organisations in relation to legislative reform and drafting. We have also documented a range of issues and concerns raised during our consultations with government lawyers of Forum island countries, such as the management of consultant drafters and the coordination of drafting assistance.

12. This information has been compiled in a scoping study, a draft of which we will circulate to you for your specialist views before the study is finalised and made available for wider policy consideration. Through this study, we hope to broaden the understanding of governments about the importance of having access to high quality legislative drafting services, as well as making recommendations about how the delivery of donor funded law reform projects might be improved. Other significant issues which have been raised in the consultations have been the value of improving the policy development skills and legal literacy of officials more generally and the importance of access to laws.

The Drafters’ Forum

13. I understand that a number of you present here today were part of the 2006 Working Group which recommended the establishment of this Drafters’ Forum and that you had also participated in its first and second meetings. It is beneficial to have this level of continuity and a forward perspective on what is essentially a long-term project for the development of sustainable legislative drafting capacity in the Pacific.

14. It is also just as beneficial to welcome the first-timers to this
meeting. They will surely bring new and fresh ideas.

15. I believe this Forum is the only established network of legislative drafters in the region. It would therefore be a unique grouping with significant potential to raise the profile of legislative drafters and to develop comprehensive and ongoing strategies and activities to secure the rightful place of legislative drafters in Pacific national administrations.

Conclusion

16. As I have indicated, the Forum Secretariat has been engaged in the efforts to strengthen and improve the legislative drafting capacities and services in Pacific countries for a long time, and is firmly committed in continuing its facilitation and support to your endeavours. I myself have been privileged to be a member of your profession in my earlier career and to have played a part in the work of the region and during my time at the Commonwealth Secretariat for the training and the provision of adequate legislative drafting services.

17. With these words, I am pleased to declare the meeting open and I wish
you all well in your consideration of the issues before this Legislative Drafters’ Forum.

Soifua.

 

 

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