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2015 Update - Regional Network of Government Legal Officers Gather in Samoa for 5th Forum

Senior government lawyers from across the region have gathered in Samoa for the 5th meeting of the Pacific Legislative Drafters Technical Forum held from 29 September to 2 October at the Samoa Conference Centre in Apia. The Drafter’s Forum is the regional network for senior government lawyers responsible for legislative drafting in Pacific Islands Forum Countries. The four day meeting is convened by the Government of Samoa, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific Office.

The meeting forms part of the Forum Secretariat’s ongoing support to legislative drafting services in Forum Island Countries which include: facilitating professional development and training opportunities for government lawyers responsible for legislative drafting; providing legislative drafting assistance; and coordinating the provision of legislative drafting assistance from other regional organisations.In his opening remarks, the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, highlighted the important role of legislative drafters.

“As a long serving public servant, I have a deep appreciation of policy and legislative formulation. I have provided instructions for the drafting of legislation, analysed and suggested redrafts to Bills and other legislative instruments to correctly reflect the intention of Government’s policies and the customary laws of Samoa.”“I therefore understand the importance of your role to effectively work hand in hand with policy officials to identify and analyse policy issues that require translation into legislation. Without your expertise, the drafting of effective legislation cannot be accomplished.”The meeting involves a two part agenda where participants will discuss institutional and legislative development and drafting issues and undergo interactive training on the legislative implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

“I am particularly happy to see that the training will focus on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as this covers a very important development area (‘disabilities’) of growing interest in the region, including here in Samoa”.The Deputy Prime Minister in his address also offered an invitation to fellow Pacific Island countries to be seconded to Samoa’s Legislative Drafting Division. “We are in a stage where we can offer assistance to host two drafters per year to be attached with our Drafting Division,” he said.Mr Asterio Takashi, the Crown Counsel with the Office of the Attorney-General in Tuvalu was the first to express his country’s interest in the internship programme and said he will recommend this important initiative to the Tuvalu Government.During the course of the meeting, legislative drafters will have the opportunity to share their Pacific experiences and learn strategies for overcoming common problems in developing and drafting laws.

Legislative drafting experts in the region are also participating as guest speakers to share information on best practices in legislative drafting.Participants expressed that the ongoing meeting and activities of the Drafters’ network have enabled major progress within each country. The collegiality and collaboration between countries has improved as countries are discussing and addressing issues together, sharing information and resources.

"I have been part of the Drafters’ Forum since its first meeting in 2007. More and more countries have recently put in place or are embarking on developing legislative drafting manuals to better control their legislative development processes. There is a lot more awareness of the value of the process of legislative development,” said Ms Fiona Leonard, Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Parliamentary Counsel Office, New Zealand.“Legal officials are made aware of the various types of technical assistance available to members, through regional networks such as this and the Pacific Islands Law Officers’ Network, which in turn prevent the duplication of efforts,” Ms Leonard added.

Background information:
The Drafters Forum intends to strengthen professional network amongst legislative drafters and create opportunities for more technically focused discussion and training to enhance the region’s legislative development and drafting skills and knowledge. It last met at PIFS Headquarters in Suva, Fiji in April 2014. This is the first time for the Government of Samoa to host the Drafters’ Forum.

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