Lessons not learned: Problems with Western Aid for Law Reform in Postcommunist Countries

Those who work in the legal reform business generally expected greater impact from this investment in new laws. Analysts, drafters, and project implementers often assumed that market forces would propel a greater level of implementation once the right laws were in place. Instead, a number of common problems repeatedly appear as counterparts in beneficiary countries have moved from legislation to implementation.

These problems have been independently identified by numerous legal reform professionals. They
can be summarized as follows:
• Lack of ownership: Laws are often translated or adopted wholesale from another system as “hasty transplants,” without the necessary careful, patient adaptation to the local legal and commercial culture and without substantial involvement by the stakeholders most directly affected, including the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), not simply government counterparts.
• Insufficient resources: Law reform projects are too short term and too lightly funded to create the needed mechanisms and processes that would permit sufficient absorption through broadbased discussion and sustained participation in the process of reform.
• Excessive segmentation: Overly narrow diagnoses and responses to legal shortcomings produce projects that ignore systemic problems and fail to add up to an integrated, effective whole.


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