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Welcoming Remarks at the 2014 Meeting of the Pacific Legislative Drafters' Technical Forum by Acting Secretary General, Ms Cristelle Pratt

WELCOMING REMARKS AT THE 2014 MEETING OF THE PACIFIC LEGISLATIVE DRAFTERS’ TECHNICAL FORUM BY ACTING SECRETARY GENERAL, MS CRISTELLE PRATT
Committee Room A,
PIFS Conference Centre,
Suva
9 – 11 April 2014

Attorney-General, Parliamentary Counsel and Senior Legal Representatives of Forum Member Countries,
Representatives of Development Partners,
Regional and International Organisations,
Distinguished Colleagues,


[Introduction]

1. On behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to this meeting, the 2014 meeting of the Pacific Legislative Drafters’ Forum.
 

2. First may I convey to you the Secretary General’s regret that, due to other commitments, he is unable to attend and welcome you all to this meeting. As many of you would be aware the Secretary General is a lawyer, with a distinguished legal career both in his home country of Samoa as well as in the international arena. The Secretary General maintains a strong interest and commitment to promoting the rule of law and the integrity of legal systems in our region.
 

3. It is however, my privilege to be able to open this three day Legislative Drafters Forum, which is being convened and hosted by the Secretariat.
 

[2014 meeting of Drafters’ Forum]

4. We trust that you will all make the most
of your time here and that you will feel at home in the lovely surrounds of your Secretariat.

5. High quality and effective legislation is an essential cornerstone of free and well-functioning democracies. It follows that having ready access to high quality legislative drafting services is fundamental to the Member Governments of the Pacific Islands Forum and in turn, the communities on whose behalf they govern.
.
It further follows that you - as the lawyers responsible for advising governments about the laws necessary to implement government policy, as well as the drafters of those laws - play a critical role in contributing to the rule of law in your country, and in our region more generally.
 

6. This is the second time for the Secretariat to host the Drafters’ Forum, the first time being in 2012. Our commitment to supporting this meeting stems from our deep appreciation of the fundamental importance of the processes of legislative development and drafting that underpin the implementation of government policies developed at the national and regional levels. It also stems from an acute awareness of the myriad issues which affect our Member countries’ ability to efficiently develop and draft effective and appropriate laws. 
 

7. It is against this backdrop, that we at the Secretariat have over time developed, in consultation with our Member countries, different approaches to supporting their efforts to develop effective laws to underpin national policies, and commitments under regional and international treaties. This has included: coordinating the development of model regional laws; providing direct legislative drafting assistance; and supporting government lawyers to undertake legislative drafting training at the University of the South Pacific.
 

8. And more recently, we have focused on facilitating opportunities for legislative drafters to build professional contacts and share and learn between and from each other different strategies for overcoming common problems in the field of legislative development and drafting.
This meeting represents such an opportunity.

[Outcomes of 2012 Drafters’ Forum]

9. This year’s Drafters’ Forum will build on the excellent foundation for dialogue and cooperation which was generated by the 2012 Drafters’
Forum meeting. I am aware that many of you here today participated in that earlier meeting and it is pleasing to see that there is continuity and continued engagement.

For those who are new, allow me to briefly recall some of the key outcomes of the last meeting.

10. In 2012, delegates developed a Regional Action Plan for furthering the goal of Forum Island Countries having ready access to high quality legislative drafting services’. The Action Plan has served as a useful guide for prioritising activities to build legislative drafting capacity. For example, it highlights the importance of identifying new opportunities for training of government lawyers in the field of legislative drafting. The Commonwealth Secretariat’s plans to hold an advanced regional course in June this year is an encouraging and welcome initiative and closely aligns with the Action Plan It was identified as a key finding of the training needs study conducted by the New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel’s Office.

11. I am also aware that a number of your offices have made concerted efforts and taken concrete steps to address issues identified in the Action Plan, such as developing legislative precedents and manuals, and accessing training assistance from bilateral partners.

12. And significantly, in 2012 members of the Pacific Islands Law Officers’ Network (or PILON as many of you would refer to it as) agreed to support national and regional efforts to implement the strategies outlined in the Regional Action Plan. In this regard, we are very happy to welcome the new PILON Coordinator to this meeting and look forward to progressing our shared goals of strengthening regional, legal cooperation.

[Training component of 2014 meeting]

13. Turning to this week’s meeting, I encourage you to build on the strong foundations that have already been established, and to work on deepening and broadening your discussions and ideas for both national and regional actions that would strengthen legislative drafting services in your respective jurisdictions.

14. We are extremely pleased that this year’s meeting will be accompanied by a dedicated training component, on legal policy development. Legislative drafters have regularly identified – including at the 2012 Drafters’ Forum – their interest and need to improve their knowledge and skills in this area.

15. This training will be delivered by the Attorney General’s Department of Australia, and I would like to express our sincere appreciation for
for this very practical form of support to the Drafters’ Forum by the Australian Government.

16. At this juncture let me acknowledge the presence of representatives from regional and international organizations who provide assistance to Forum Island Countries on legal issues and the development of legal frameworks. Your participation at this meeting serves two important purposes, firstly enabling Forum Island government lawyers to learn about the types of issues you work on and importantly the assistance that you could provide to them and secondly to be able to hear firsthand from the government officers charged with legislative development drafting about their needs and priorities.

[Conclusion]

17. Colleagues, you have a full and interesting agenda ahead of you. I encourage you all to bring your experiences and insights to the discussions. Your offices’ efforts to improve on a certain legal issue may well be useful to other lawyers in another jurisdiction; and I would encourage you not to be constrained to telling only stories of success. These kinds of discussions exemplify the very practical benefits of regional legal cooperation through sharing of information to generate creative solutions to common problems.

18. In concluding, I would like to take you full circle and back to my opening comment that you all have a crucial role to play in contributing to the rule of law in your countries and in our region more generally. I ask you to reflect on this role in your discussions over the next few days and to ask yourself and each other how the rule of law in our region can be enhanced through your efforts in developing and drafting the laws which will govern our communities and country.

19. With these words, I am pleased to declare the meeting open and I wish you all the very best and every success over the next three days.

Thank you.
 

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