“Legislative drafting is a difficult art that has to reflect societal needs”

Igor Lai is a lawyer with Romanian and Moldovan citizenship who joined EUPOL COPPS as a Legislative Drafting Expert at the beginning of 2020. EUPOL COPPS is by the nature of its mandate a very technical mission, but even in a mission of technical specialists, his work can appear from the outside as one of the more complex. While the substance may be complicated, the end goal is clear however. Lai’s job along with his three colleagues – one Dane and two Palestinians - is to provide support for more effective, collaborative and transparent methods for drafting new pieces of legislation.

With his Danish colleague, Lai provides advice to the relevant Palestinian institutions on international best practices, while the Palestinian members of the EUPOL COPPS Legislative Team ensure that the advice is best tailored to the local environment. Mainly, the team support the Palestinian Ministry of Justice, the Harmonisation Committee and the Legislation and Advisory Bureau (Diwan).

”In order to be better understood and correctly implemented, legislation has to be well drafted. It is really important that legislation is drafted in a clear, simple and precise manner. All citizens have to easily identify and understand their rights,” the Romanian expert explains. “At the same time, all actors involved in the legislative process, including civil society, should be encouraged to actively participate in the process in order to guarantee a transparent and effective process” he added. ”If that does not happen, the quality of any legislation drafted will be poor in both content and form and will not clearly reflect societal needs. Legislative drafting is a difficult art that has to reflect societal needs”.

The legislative drafting expert continues by arguing for clear schedules explaining when certain milestones in the legislative drafting process will be reached, “People should know how legislation is drafted, and what it involves from the beginning until the end when it becomes law”.

“The Palestinian authorities have adopted Guidelines on Legislative Drafting and on Public Consultation, which were produced with the support of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Both guidelines can be considered as an important tool in the legislative process. However, because they are not mandatory, as it is the case in many countries, the actors involved in the legislative process are under no obligation to follow them,” the expert says.

He also argues, it is important for there to be more clearly defined roles for institutions that draft legislation. “The Palestinian Legislative Council has not been functional since 2006 and there is no binding procedure to regulate the legislative initiative within the Government, the expert says. “There is a strong need to establish a normative framework to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the institutions involved in the legislative process. In addition, the legislative drafting process is more transparent when draft laws are accompanied by supporting documents, for example an impact assessment that explains the economic, social and environmental consequences of the legislation. Supporting documents such as concept notes, impact assessments and explanatory memoranda should be mandatory”.

Lai has a PhD in Law as well as Masters degrees in European and International affairs, he worked in both the private and public sectors, as well as in several EU institutions providing legal advice and expertise on different EU legislative proposals in the area of Justice and Home Affairs. Lai believes that certain principles for drafting legislation are universal. “The techniques for drafting legislation in the EU follow certain common rules and standards,” Lai explains. “These general principles, for example clarity, transparency and consultation can be applied everywhere.”

At the moment, the Romanian expert and his colleagues are preparing for a workshop on the legislative drafting process, which will be held for the legal personnel of the Diwan in the coming weeks. This workshop will encourage discussion amongst the group about what could be done to improve the Palestinian legislative drafting process and will also look at best practices from different countries in the Middle East and Europe.

EUPOL COPPS is also supporting the Diwan and the Harmonisation Committee to launch new professional, user friendly and secure websites. Lai argues for digital resources to be more widely adopted. “Greater digitalisation would improve the situation for those working with legislation”, Lai argues. “There is no Palestinian official electronic legislation database. Currently, Birzeit University runs the only electronic legislation database that is publicly accessible, but it is not an official one. It is really important to have an official database which would, ideally, have a translation into English. This would help international donors to provide higher quality support for their Palestinian counterparts”.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced institutions to increase their digital capacity. EUPOL COPPS has delivered the majority of its advice and training online since April 2020. But little can replace the personal touch. “Personal contact is very important in our daily work. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic situation, it is very difficult to have that personal contact. I am hoping for an end to this crisis soon, so we can go back to work with our partners normally! I am very glad that I have the opportunity to work with our Palestinian colleagues and counterparts. I really like the Palestinian people and their culture”.