The Africa Union mission to promote the economic and social integration, the Pan African Parliament (PAP) goal to foster harmonisation of legislation in Africa and the need to strengthen the democratic institutions and civil society require the support of effective tools for legal information management across Africa.
Legal systems, and in particular legislation, are getting more and more complex and each national Parliament has to coordinate and adopt legal texts that emanate from regional legislative assemblies (and quite soon from PAP), since its statute foresees legislative powers from the second term.
As a result legislative drafters have to deal with ever intricate bodies of law and the process of drafting consistent and coherent legislation is getting more complicated, as it is the task of the judiciary to uphold and apply valid law.
The duty to respect the law, and uphold the rule of law, has to be accompanied by the moral obligation to make the law clear, unambiguous and understandable to the citizens and the enterprises. If it is true that ignorance of the law is no excuse, it follows that obscure, ambiguous, or unnecessarily complex legislation should also be inexcusable.
Nowadays almost all documents are created in electronic form, and they are increasingly stored in electronic media. This brings new challenges and opportunities to the field of legislative drafting. Outdated skills, lack of standards for creating, organizing, using, retrieving and disposing of digital legal records can lead to serious problems and waste the unique opportunities brought about by information and communication technologies (ICTs).
For ICTs to contribute fully to the rule of law and to African integration, there is need to adopt common guidelines on the language and structure of legal documents. Compliance with such guidelines will facilitate not only cross-referencing and data retrieval, but also the implementation of shared standards for the markup of legal information, covering the whole life-cycle of legal documents. Thus, here is need to specifically agree on uniform drafting guidelines dealing with format and style, but also with the structural elements of legislation, to ensure that such elements can automatically be identified and processed by software applications.
The Recommendations aim to improve the quality of the law, to simplify the regulatory framework by harmonising the legal drafting best practices while respecting the peculiarities of the different traditions. Common guidelines don't at all mean homogenisation of the different legislation traditions or law-making decision processes. On the contrary, common guidelines will allow to strengthen the richness of the African legal cultures by promoting a common methodologies, tools, best practices for enhancing the opportunities to compare legislations and promote harmonisation that respects the plurality of traditions.
The draft version of the Recommendations are available at: Legislative Drafting Guidelines .
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)
an initative of United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)