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Commonwealth backs Caribbean network of legislative drafters

31 August 2011
Seminar strengthens capacity of drafting offices

The Commonwealth Secretariat is strengthening the network of legislative drafters in the Caribbean, as part of efforts to facilitate the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in creating a single market economy within the region.

A three-day seminar was held in Bridgetown, Barbados from 22 to 24 August 2011, with legislative drafters from CARICOM member and associate member states. CARICOM is an organisation of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies, 12 of which are Commonwealth countries.

CARICOM aims to move its members towards greater economic integration via harmonised laws. The seminar encouraged those who draft laws to recognise the vital role they play in turning this into a reality.

The legal adviser to the Secretariat’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division, Mark Guthrie, said: “We hope very much that this seminar represents the start of strengthened connections between drafting offices in the region, and that after this seminar participants will feel encouraged to contact each other to counsel and advise each other on legislative drafting practice.”

The Commonwealth Secretariat and CARICOM Secretariat, in collaboration with the British High Commission in Barbados and the European Union, organised the seminar with the aim of strengthening the capacity of drafting offices and providing legal drafters the opportunity to network and to collaborate with each other.

Mr Guthrie said this was in line with the outcome of the 15th Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting 2011 in Australia, which requested the Commonwealth Secretariat to encourage drafting offices to form networks.

The Commonwealth Secretariat provides technical assistance for legislative drafters through the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC). The Secretariat has provided a three-month mentorship scheme and seconded legislative drafters to the CARICOM Secretariat, as well as training support for regional legislative drafters.

CFTC experts in legislative drafting Segametsi Mothibatsel and Dayantha Mendis, who are based at the CARICOM Secretariat, delivered presentations at the seminar. Other presenters included Shirley Bell QC, Chief Parliamentary Counsel of Barbados, and her Deputy Cynthia Herbert; Gwen Johnson, Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel of Bermuda; Michelle Daley, Consultant Drafter, Government of Cayman Islands; Dan Suter, Criminal Justice Advisor to the Eastern Caribbean at the British High Commission, Bridgetown; and Safiya Ali, CARICOM Acting General Counsel.

Mr Guthrie said adequate legislation is one of the essential elements of the rule of law. One of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s objectives is to support Commonwealth countries in upholding the rule of law.

“Citizens in any jurisdiction have the right to know with certainty and clarity what laws apply to them. They must be able to know what are their rights and responsibilities under the law,” said Mr Guthrie.