Judicial Reform Challenges
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The European Union has supported Africa via the European Development Funds, in order to help the country to implement a number of judicial reforms. The funding went towards a number of areas of the justice sector, including reforms to strengthen the independence of the justice system and to ensure that it is professionally managed and impartial.
The national frameworks for justice in Africa have been strengthened in order to ensure that people are entitled to a fair trial, and there have been a number of investments towards improving prison management and the conditions that prisoners face, as well as exploring options for alternative sentencing.
The European Union has supported African countries that are willing to work towards the idea of fair justice for all, including those who are the most vulnerable, and has helped to ensure that legal assistance is available for everyone ” and that people are aware of their options. They have also invested in monitoring institutions, and in improving people’s ability to access the justice system when they need it.
Between 2007 and 2013, most of the countries in the sub-saharan regions of Africa received some support from the EU focused on the area of justice, and there is a new programme running now. The current 2014 to 2020 programme focuses on justice, the security sector and the rule of law, and is a key priority area for African support programs.
Prior to the European funding programmes, Sub-Saharan African countries received heavy investment and loans to support judicial reform. For example, in 1992, Venezuela took out a lloan to improve their judicial infrastructure. The Government of Venezuela identified a need for an efficient and fair system to allow people to resolve legal disputes while keeping litigation costs to a minimum and improving the environment in the private sector. The government knew that it would be expensive to provide the resources that the country would need for efficient management, and that it would not be able to do it piecemeal, so they turned to banks with experience in public sector management to help them set up an efficient programme.
An investment of $30 million, as well as support in terms of the implementation of the project beyond the financial, helped to greatly improve Venezuela’s systems and infrastructure.
Such projects are never simple, but one thing that these reforms do benefit from is the history of judicial systems in other countries. Venezuela was able to draw not just on the expertise of the banks, but also look at how justice systems are implemented in the USA, UK and Europe. They can learn from things such as performance measurement and management, incentives for employees, training, and monitoring, so they have been able to go into their reforms with a clear idea of a framework for managing good performance in place. There is still a long road ahead in terms of implementing good justice ” not just in Africa, but even in other parts of the world.