Cooperation between the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Law (SAARCLAW)

Published on Thursday, 28 November 2013

Established in October 1991, SAARCLAW is a regional apex body of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It is composed of judges, lawyers, law academics, and other stakeholders in South Asia. It has an Honorary Secretary-General with an Executive Council and country chapters. According to its Charter, SAARCLAW was formed for the purposes of disseminating information, promoting cooperation and understanding of the legal developments in the region, and developing law as an instrument of social change.

ADB has been engaged in informal discussions with SAARCLAW in support of its efforts to more formally establish and improve the means for capacity-building and knowledge-sharing among judiciaries and other legal sector participants in South Asia. Most of the countries in South Asia share common elements of legal traditions and cultures, and have adopted many modern laws and signed most relevant international treaties. Yet the rule-of-law is not uniformly embedded and inconsistency in application and implementation of laws and regulations is pervasive. In many cases, the gap between the adequacy of laws and the absence of implementation resides in ill-equipped judiciaries. These circumstances impair growth in public confidence and investment and – ultimately – sustainable development. SAARCLAW member judiciaries are committed to addressing these challenges through capacity-building, knowledge-sharing and intra-regional support in areas including environmental laws, corporate governance, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing, trade laws, commercial arbitration, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and legal ethics.

Due to capacity constraints and, in some cases, cultural and political barriers, an intermediary like ADB was required to facilitate these initiatives. Considering SAARCLAW’s critical importance to the continued development of the rule of law and capacity-building in South Asia, ADB signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SAARCLAW on 12 November 2013 to facilitate SAARCLAW’s efforts in promoting regional cooperation and collaboration on legal development issues, including issues relating to environmental law, finance and anti-money laundering laws, gender, trade and infrastructure, and corporate governance, etc.