Participants at the legislative drafting training course, which is being conducted in Ghana for Commonwealth African lawyers.
19 November 2009
The Commonwealth Secretariat is helping equip lawyers with the necessary skills to draft laws for their respective governments
Intense 12-week training courses were introduced at the request of Commonwealth law ministers in 2002, who asked the Secretariat to help fill the nearly vacant field of legislative drafting around the Commonwealth.
This training involves formal teaching and practical exercises delivered by experienced legal drafters. Postgraduate diplomas are up for grabs for successful participants.
The curriculum includes:
Reic Mensah from Ghana was one of the participants at a training programme for African lawyers which ran from July to October 2009.
“Participating in the Commonwealth drafting course has completely changed my approach and work ethic in the area of legislative drafting,” she said. “As a lawyer in the Legal Division of the Internal Revenue service with responsibility for drafting tax legislation, the experience gained in this course has been invaluable.”
Claudette Awa Babilia, from the Ministry of Justice in Cameroon, also attended this course: “I return home committed to use the knowledge acquired to contribute to the better drafting of laws and international public agreements.”
In the Caribbean
Guyanese delegate Amanza Walton-Desir went on to complete a Masters of Law Degree in International Maritime Law at the IMO International Maritime Law Institute in Malta, after attending the first legislative drafters course in Guyana in 2007.
“One of the major components of the Masters is a legislative drafting project, in which participants have to select one international maritime convention and incorporate it into their respective national laws,” she said.
“However, because of the training I received from the drafting programme I was able to go further and successfully craft a legal regime comprising six international conventions, intended to comprehensively address the full spectrum of vessel source marine pollution, an issue which, in Guyana’s case, has not yet been the subject of legislative action.
“The completion of the programme enabled me to better advise upon and prepare legislation to achieve the policy objectives of the government ministry in which I function. To date, I have prepared several pieces of legislation on issues of aviation policy, maritime matters and road transport.”
In the Pacific
Loretta Afamasaga, a State Solicitor from Samoa, attended a forum for legal drafters, held in Vanuatu in June 2007.
Other states represented at the meeting included Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and the Cook Islands.
Ms Afamasaga recalled how most law students at school had a bad impression of the legislative drafting profession, but she now realises the importance of legal drafters in their community and country.
“As a student, I saw it as boring. I thought I would be confined to my desk without rushing to court and it just did not appeal to my legal taste,” she said.
“It was a presentation made by a legislative drafter that challenged that perception. Our personalities are reflected in our laws and I think you need a certain sensitivity to draft the laws that reflect the Pacific personality and ideals.”