Botswana Law Reform Strategy

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The Government of Botswana Law Reform Strategy (2020 – 2023) was developed with technical support from UNDP and formally adopted on 5 March 2020.  The Law Reform Strategy objectives include law reform, statute law revision (simplification and harmonization of the law) and access to law.

Implementation of the Law Reform Strategy will promote rule of law and economic growth. Cohesive and up-to-date laws and policies promote investment, peace and security. If the law is complex and out-dated, or if the law is not freely accessible, it can be harder to do business and harder for people to know their rights and obligations under the law. Outdated and inconsistent laws and regulations can increase regulatory burden on both business and the public.   Human rights and other social protections can also suffer if the laws do not reflect current values and standards.

The Law Reform Strategy will help to ensure that laws are reformed, simplified and harmonized to meet community expectations, address social, economic, environmental and political challenges and reflect legal developments at the domestic, national and international levels.

The Law Reform Strategy was informed by extensive research and consultations. The Government of Botswana first commissioned a research study in 2009 to investigate possibilities for increased national capacity to conduct law reform.  The resulting “Molatlhegi Report” was drafted by several experts in law reform and based upon research and consultations.

Noting that there is no ‘prescribed’ institutional model for a law reform agency, the Molatlhegi Report proposed three options for Government’s consideration including:

-          A division within the Attorney-General’s Chambers;

-          A department under the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security (MDJS); or

-          An independent agency or commission headed by full time and/or part time Commissioners answerable to Parliament.

After considering these options and taking the national context into account, in 2017 Cabinet approved the establishment of a Law Reform Unit in the Legislative Drafting Division of the Attorney General’s Chambers.  From late 2018, UNDP provided technical support for consultations and drafting of the Law Reform Strategy.

The consultation process to develop the Law Reform Strategy included a large stakeholder workshop convened in Gaborone, Botswana in 2018.  Two international experts on law reform, Advocate Yvonne Dausab (the Chairperson of the Namibian Law Reform and Development Commission) and Prof. David Weisbrot (former Australian Law Reform Commissioner), both presented at the workshop and guided the consultation process. The workshop concluded that while there is not one model of law reform agency which is ‘best practice’, law reform agencies should have permanent members, full-time capacity, be able to produce independent and authoritative research and reports that are credible.  These inputs informed the development of the Law Reform Strategy.

A Steering Committee was formed to guide the drafting and review of the Law Reform Strategy.  The Steering Committee comprised Government ministries, University of Botswana Law Department, the Attorney General Chambers and the Office of the President.

The Law Reform Strategy includes an Action Plan or work programme to be undertaken by the Law Reform Unit in the Attorney General’s Chambers to achieve the three strategic objectives (Law Reform, Statute Law Revision and Access to Law). Law reform will be delivered through pilot law reform projects. These pilot projects will inform advice to Cabinet on the appropriate model and resourcing for law reform in Botswana in the future, having regard to the nature and scope of law reform required by Vision 2036 and Botswana’s National Development Plan.  The Strategy includes comprehensive statute law revision to identify any outdated laws, repeal, harmonise or consolidate laws as necessary.  Access to laws will be provided through an online platform (BotswanaLII) and offline application, so that the laws of Botswana are available online and offline free of charge.

The Law Reform Strategy specifically provides for community engagement and partnerships.  Co-operation with law reform agencies and other partners will be essential to building national capacity to deliver the Strategy.

Support for the Law Reform Strategy and for the establishment and capacitation of a Law Reform Unit in the Attorney General’s Chambers is provided under the UNDP “Support to the Fulfillment of Human Rights, Access to Justice and Empowerment of Youth and Women Project (2018-2021).” ---