Governance and Public Sector Management
Bringing Law and Policy Reform Where it is Needed
- Project Name: Institutionalization of Office of the General Counsel’s Law and Policy Reform Program
- Region/Country: Regional/All Developing Member Countries
- Sector and Themes: Governance and Public Sector Management
- Year: 2020
- Project Leaders: Christina Pak
Good governance, in particular, the rule of law and legal and judicial institutions, is vital to inclusive and sustainable development.
Every year, millions of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity are at risk because of the absence of a strong legal framework in ADB’s DMCs. Investment in sectors such as infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, and tourism depends on the stability of a country’s policies and laws, without which unsustainable economic activity can have long-lasting impacts on the environment and biodiversity. For gender inequality and gender-based violence, legal recourse is sometimes the only option.
The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) has been managing ADB’s Law and Policy Reform Program since 1995, where OGC designs and implements TA projects in areas relating to legal and judicial reforms. The Law and Policy Reform Program team has expertise in environment and climate change, private sector development, infrastructure law and regulation, financial law and regulation, and inclusive growth (including gender equality) and access to justice.
Knowledge products and services delivered
In 2019, OGC developed a Law and Policy Reform Program action plan. It provides law and policy reform services, identifying legal barriers before projects or investments are initiated. It also provides design and implementation support to policy-based program and TA operations. To deliver more law and policy reform services, OGC realigned its internal structure based on a “hub and spokes” model, where a newly formed law and policy reform team will act as the hub, and OGC lawyers from the different teams act as spokes providing their knowledge and expertise. OGC put in place internal measures to strengthen governance, quality assurance, and business processes for improved law and policy reform services.
Impact and results
The Law and Policy Reform Program has improved the legal and regulatory frameworks and capacities of legal and judicial stakeholders in ADB’s DMCs. Highlights include legal reforms to attract foreign investment and support private sector development and public–private partnerships (PPPs) in Pacific DMCs, Timor-Leste, and Uzbekistan. The program created a legal framework for international arbitration so that commercial disputes between foreign parties can be effectively resolved and enforced.
The program helped enact a new PPP law in Viet Nam in June 2020 to replace the existing decree. The new law increases overall transparency, provides stronger government support for PPP development, reduces long-term risks, and makes it more attractive for private sector commitments. In Lao PDR, the program helped the government enact a new disaster management law, which sets out roles and responsibilities and coordinating mechanisms for the central and provincial level entities involved in the disaster response and recovery effort.
Lessons for Replication
Law and policy reform conversations need to occur early on during drafting of country partnership strategies and country programming missions. They also need to be integrated into work plans of the sector and thematic groups. ADB can leverage the program’s operational knowledge, subject matter expertise, and long-term relationships with legal and judicial stakeholders to deliver more law and policy reform solutions.