October 26, 2018
"We would like Japan's advice on drafting a civil code." In 1992, Japan received a request from the Vietnamese minister of justice. Asking another country to support you in creating your country's laws and legislative system is not done lightly. It was the beginning of Japan's cooperation for rule of law promotion.
This second article in the series "Japan's Modernization Experience as a Legacy for the World" introduces Japan's cooperation for rule of law promotion, to which it applies its own experience of learning about other countries' legislative systems during the Meiji period. It's a kind of cooperation only possible with a country like Japan that has such an historical background.
Main countries where Japan has provided cooperation for rule of law promotion
Japan's current legal system began to take shape back in the Meiji era.
In the early Meiji era, Gustave Boissonade, a French legal scholar, came to Japan. He is known as "the father of modern Japanese law." At the time, though Japan had opened the door to the rest of the world and embarked on modernization, its legal system was regarded by the West as insufficient, and Japan was responding to this by sending its legal researchers as international students to France, Germany, England and other countries to learn about their laws. Japan made significant efforts through trial and error to learn from outside while developing its own legal systems that best preserved the country's distinctive values and society. As a result of this process, the Meiji Constitution was promulgated in 1889, followed by the enactment of the Civil Code and Commercial Code, and the process of law-based nation building got started.
This experience brought about Japan's distinctive attitude toward its assistance to other countries: "If you just push one country's legal system on another, it will not take root."
Hiroshi Matsuo, a professor at Keio University Law School who has been deeply involved in cooperation for rule of law promotion in Laos and other countries and also researches cooperation for rule of law promotion, said, "A characteristic of Japan's legal development is that it did not just adopt Western-style laws as it found them, but rather researched and compared the laws of many countries and pursued a legal system that suited its own society and culture. Its experiences gained through that process are useful to developing countries under pressure from globalization to develop laws."
Japanese experts and Laotian colleagues actively contribute opinions.
In 1996, when Japan’s first cooperation for rule of law promotion began in earnest, including the drafting of a civil code in Vietnam, Japan’s support began to draw attention. In the 20 years since, Japan has been rolling out such assistance, mainly in Asia. The cooperation is now wide-ranging, including, depending on the situation of the country, everything from human resource training and drafting laws to creating manuals for people in the legal profession.
Another advantage of Japan's cooperation is the all-Japan structure it has at its disposal. Japan has dispatched to other countries long-term experts with tenures of 2-3 years including judges, public prosecutors, lawyers and members of the staffs of various ministries, in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, the Japanese Supreme Court, universities, the Fair Trade Commission, the Financial Services Agency, the Patent Office and other bodies. As of October 2018, 16 legal profession experts are working in various countries JICA dispatched them to.
The three pillars of JICA’s cooperation for rule of law promotion
Lawyer Katsunori Irie, second from left, participates in a meeting in Laos.
In Laos, cooperation is under way to put together thecountry’s first comprehensive civil code from scratch. Until now laws on contracts, property and inheritance have been created separately, so there have been problems including the overlapping of laws and contradictions between laws. That's why JICA created textbooks on civil law and compiled case books for the Ministry of Justice and courts and then saw to it that the drafting of the civil code proceeded in earnest. This year, 20 years after the support began, a civil code made up of more than 600 provisions is about to be enacted in the Laotian National Assembly.
Lawyer Katsunori Irie has been dispatched to Laos as a long-term expert since last year. In talking to local stakeholders in the legal profession, he is respecting the ownership of Laotian colleagues while aiming to get them to think on their own and take action, he says. He is working to understand the language and culture of Laos and hopes that in the future Laotians will themselves be able to research the laws of other countries, create rules that suit Laotian society and culture and improve the practice of law.
Nalonglith Norasing of the Laotian Ministry of Justice had this to say about JICA's cooperation: "Rather than just handing us draft laws, they are supporting us in the work of coming up with answers on our own, and this is helping with the development of Laotian human resources."
Training for new judges in Myanmar
In recent years, with the globalization of business, there has been an increasing need to create laws to protect intellectual property and promote fair competition in the markets.
For example, while Myanmar's economic development has been remarkable, the country only transitioned to a civil government in 2011 and its legal system is still inadequate for supporting a market economy. For this reason, there are concerns about investment risk, which is a factor hindering economic growth. To quickly deal with this situation, JICA is now training human resources engaging in dispute resolution related to intellectual property rights and creating textbooks for people in the legal profession.
JICA's first cooperation for rule of law promotion in Africa began in Côte d'Ivoire in 2015. In one of its efforts, it set up a call center to provide legal information to citizens.
Because Japan has put in place the fundamental systemic infrastructore of its society by creating laws since the Meiji Restoration, it has become easy for individuals and companies to engage in economic activity and commerce with peace of mind.
"The goal of cooperation for rule of law promotion is building a society that protects individual rights so that people can live freely and with peace of mind," said JICA staff member Makiko Arai, who is in charge of cooperation for rule of law promotion in JICA's Industrial Development and Public Policy Department. "An increase in the number of societies like that will lead to global stability and peace."