A blog by Dr Elizabeth Macharia, Legal Adviser, Law Development Section, Governance and Peace Directorate, Commonwealth Secretariat.
This week, Law Ministers are meeting in Mauritius for the Commonwealth Law Ministers meeting from 22 – 25 November 2022. This blog focuses on two key areas to be discussed by ministers this week:
- The Plan of Action on the Commonwealth Law Ministers Declaration on Access to Justice.
- How digitalisation will impact the Courts of the Future
In 2019, Commonwealth Law Ministers adopted a Declaration on Access to Justice, with the aim of prioritising access to justice across the Commonwealth, particularly in light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), more specifically Target 16.3 which calls on countries to ‘Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all’.
To draw tangible outputs from the Ministerial Declaration on Access to Justice, the Commonwealth Secretariat designed a practical Plan of Action. The Declaration on Access to Justice contained 5 key priorities and added a list of imperatives to be implemented by member states and the Secretariat to achieve these commitments.
In an effort to ensure equality of outcomes for our member countries in implementing the action plan, the Secretariat has developed practical toolkits to assist justice ministers. These toolkits were presented for the first time to ministers in June at CHOGM2022.
These toolkits will be placed at the disposal of Law Ministers at the Law Ministers Meeting this week. We will also be highlighting a new resource on Environmental, Social and Economic Development provisions in Investment contracts which can help Government Attorneys to protect the environment and take into consideration social and economic matters when consulting investment contracts with multinationals. The toolkits also include the Law and Climate Change toolkit, a large repository of legislation on the climate and the environment from across the Commonwealth placed at the disposal of Law ministers.
The Commonwealth has also developed a draft model provision on data protection and draft model provisions on abuse of positions of trust. These model laws are developed in collaboration with member states and serve as valuable benchmarking tools for the development of national legislation. The model provisions will be presented to ministers at CLMM 2022.
Best Practice Guides
The Commonwealth’s Anticorruption Benchmarks are a further standard-setting tool containing 25 Benchmarks Law Ministries on Best practices in the fight against corruption. Furthermore, the Secretariat will highlight a best practice guide on Cyber security for elections, which is a tool that assists election monitoring bodies, to better secure the interface between election systems and technology. The Secretariat has also developed the draft Commonwealth Good Practice Guide On Child Early And Forced Marriage which, in accordance with the Plan of Action, assists states to improve legislation.
These resources assist Law Ministers to deliver justice to all in their jurisdictions.
People-Centred Courts, Courts of the future and digitisation
The Declaration on Access to Justice urges Commonwealth member states to use people-friendly approaches to address the barriers to access to justice. This includes the use of technology to provide access to legal services as well as enhanced delivery of justice services.
At this week’s meeting, Law ministers will hear presentations on the themes of people-centred justice and the future of our courts.
Dr Sam Muller from the Hague Institute on Innovation in Law will speak to the meaning of people-centred justice, which is an evidence-based and innovation-centred approach to justice. Law Ministers will be challenged to consider if their justice systems can achieve greater efficiency by being data-driven. This approach requires an empirical understanding of the legal needs of people which then guides justice delivery.
Lawyer and technologist Professor Richard Susskind OBE, a leading expert in the use of artificial intelligence in courts, will lead ministers in a discussion about reimagining the courts of the future. Prof Dan Svantesson, from Australia’s Bond University, will also present a paper on the use of artificial intelligence in decision-making across the Commonwealth. Law Ministers will consider the degree to which artificial intelligence can and should be used in judicial decision-making.
The Commonwealth Secretariat team looks forward to fruitful engagements with member states over the coming week. Learn more about the work of the Secretariat on the Rule of Law here.
- Rena Gashumba Communications Adviser, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
- T: +44 7483 919 968 | E-mail