Law and Institutions

The role of law in development

Political campaigning in a rural area (Indonesia)

A courthouse in Yala Province, Thailand

As Japan's political, economic, and social involvement with developing countries continues to increase, there is a growing need to study the legal systems of those countries at a variety of levels. With regard to business activities, in addition to knowledge of legal norms set forth by enacted laws, there is a growing awareness of the need to understand the actual implementation of law and legal consciousness of people in the said country. Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA) Charter cites, as one of its basic policies, supporting the self-help efforts of developing countries based on good governance, by extending cooperation for their human resource development, institution building including development of legal systems, and economic and social infrastructure building. This cannot be accomplished without first accurately understanding the issues faced by recipient countries regarding their legal systems.

Current research and studies concerning legal systems in developing countries include the following: (1) understanding the legal norms of target nations by collecting and analyzing relevant laws and precedents. (2) analysis of how laws are implemented and how they impact society, and understanding the judicial system as well as legal system of individual areas of law. (3) analysis of discrepancies between the legal norms/institutions and how stakeholders actually understand and perceive these norms/institutions. With this knowledge as a base, further study can identify structural legal issues faced by target countries and, then, explore potential legal policy solutions.

A country's legal structure is fundamentally impacted by the state of its economic development as well as its indigenous society and culture. These legal structures, furthermore, are influenced by, in addition to domestic factors, external factors such as globalization and international relations. As such, research on legal systems of developing countries should take these contextual factors into account, if not focus specifically on them. For example, potential research topics could include analysis of how contextual factors such as economic globalization, regime change, regional cooperation, and international aid influence the legal system in a developing country or how their legal systems respond to domestic and international issues related to environment, consumers and labor issues, or on democratization, human rights and the rule of law. Given that deep understanding of the role of law in developmental processes is necessary for effective legal reform by the developing countries and for effective legal technical assistance by donor countries, further research and theorization regarding these issues needs to be carried out.