The Commonwealth promotes the rule of law by providing support to member countries through knowledge and expertise sharing programmes, leading on work in law and development, implementing the Cyber Declaration and promoting democracy.
Support to member countries
The support we provide to member countries includes:
- Strengthening rule of law institutions through technical assistance and development of policy and tools to build capacity and enhance skills
- Providing short term experts remotely or in-country to help in the development and drafting of laws
- Working with legal professionals to strengthen legal frameworks by rendering technical assistance to member countries which request the Secretariat’s assistance
- Providing training and capacity building in legislative drafting and law reform
- Enhancing investigatory and prosecutorial capabilities in areas such as organised crime, anti-corruption, cybercrime, money laundering
- Mentoring and placing rule of law officials in relevant agencies for benchmarking and study tours to boost capacity
- Implementing twinning and exchange programmes between national rule of law institutions, for example between legislative drafting offices in the Commonwealth
- Promoting practical and cross-cutting issues in the administration of justice, such as international cooperation on criminal matters, judicial independence, effective court administration and legislative drafting and law reforms
Promoting best practice
To help improve effectiveness, we strengthen the practical skills of legal professionals and increase their substantive knowledge of the law. This is done by developing and promoting best practice in the form of toolkits, guidelines, manuals and model laws, such as:
In the implementation of some of its programmes, the Rule of Law Section collaborates with Commonwealth accredited organisations such as:
The work on law and development promotes strategies to enable member countries to meet targets set under the post-2015 Development Agenda of the United Nations, notably Sustainable Development Goal 16.
It also promotes other work that uses an integrated approach to rule of law programmes by taking into account human rights, gender issues and sustainable development in the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth Law Ministers and Senior Officials of Law Ministries meet regularly biennially to advance this work and build consensus on topical issues. The latest meeting, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, concluded with the adoption of the Commonwealth Law Ministers Declaration on Equal Access to Justice.
The Commonwealth Secretariat coordinates the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration programme. Adopted at CHOGM 2018, the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration confirms member countries’ commitment to a free, open, inclusive and secure cyberspace.
The Secretariat works with national, regional and international partners and provides clear, detailed and sustainable help to member states. This help builds member states capabilities to combat cybercrime through:
- training of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and members of the judiciary on electronic evidence
- building a network of focal points for rapid and effective exchange of information
- develop appropriate legal frameworks on cybercrime and data protection
In support of the Commonwealth’s elections observations flagship programme, the Rule of Law Section of the Secretariat provides support in the form of constitutional and rule of law analysis as well as monitoring of electoral petitions and related court cases to Commonwealth Observer Groups.
To date, support has been provided for elections and referenda in:
- Sri Lanka (2015)
- Sierra Leone (2018)
- Pakistan (2018)
- Zimbabwe (2018)
- Nigeria (2019)
- Belize (2019)
- Dominica (2019)
- Namibia (2019)
- Guyana (2020)
The Rule of Law Section also supports member countries on the implementation of the Commonwealth Latimer House principles on the Three Branches of Government, which govern the interaction between parliament, the executive and the judiciary in democratic societies.