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The Commonwealth works with member countries to promote the rule of law and strengthen the independence of judiciaries and the administration of justice

Improving justice systems

The challenge

The Sustainable Development Goals include targets for governments to strengthen the rule of law, ensure equal access to justice, and promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws.

Many small and developing Commonwealth member countries share similar legal systems. But because of limited institutional capacity, they often face challenges in establishing robust legal and judicial systems that protect liberties and support development.

Globalisation and the spread of technology have increased the mobility of international criminal networks and placed added burdens on criminal justice systems. Cybercrime, for example, is estimated to cost the global economy $200 billion a year. It threatens fragile economies disproportionately and has become a matter of national security.

Commonwealth action

The Commonwealth works with member governments to strengthen their justice systems by supporting their institutions and promoting the adoption of best practices. We assist with law reforms in our member countries by building national capacity in legislative drafting. We provide practical training for investigators, prosecutors, judges, court administrators and other justice officials. We also provide advice on judicial reforms including guidelines on criminal and civil procedures.

Through the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, we send legal and judicial experts to our member countries – more than 50 since 2006. In Lesotho, for example, we provided the commercial court with a judge and a court administration expert. This helped clear a case backlog and, as a result, gave reassurance to the country’s businesses and investors.

At Commonwealth Law Ministers Meetings, we help countries to develop legal policy by providing a forum to share practices and learn from one another. The Commonwealth Working Group of Experts on Cybercrime, as well as the Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative – a consortium of countries and more than 20 partner organisations – also help to improve co-operation in the fight against computer-based crime.

Global value

Our work to strengthen the rule of law has paved the way for a Commonwealth which is better resourced and equipped to deliver on both domestic expectations and international standards of justice.

Our experts have made tangible improvements to the administration of justice through their work in member countries. Similarly, our efforts to share knowledge and build consensus at Commonwealth meetings have produced national action plans and strategies to combat terrorism and cybercrime and other transnational criminal activities.

While many countries have a way to go, progress to build an independent, impartial, honest and competent judiciary and an independent, effective and competent legal system is progressing because of Commonwealth action.