Legal Technical Assistance

Part 1. What is legal technical assistance?

1.     Three basic pillars of legal technical assistance
The term “Houseid-seibi-shien (legal technical assistance)” in Japanese is still not a familiar word among Japanese people. This is quite natural as only recently has such assistance activities begun to be developed in a systematic manner.


Based on past experience, legal technical assistance can be described as follows:

Assisting developing countries in their self-help efforts to improve their legal systems.


Three basic pillars of assistance:

-          Assistance in drafting laws;

-          Assistance in improving legal systems to enforce and operate laws; and

-          Assistance in capacity-building of legal professionals, etc.


2.     History of Japanese legal technical assistance (by the Ministry of Justice)

-          1994                                Initiation of country-focused training courses for Vietnam

-          1995                                   Initiation of country-focused training courses for Cambodia

-          1997                                   Initiation of region-focused training courses for Mongolia,

                       Myanmar and Vietnam (the number of participating countries increased later).                                                           

-          1998                                   Initiation of country-focused training courses for Laos

-          2000                               Dispatch of long-term experts to Vietnam

Initiation of training in legislative-drafting for Cambodia

-          April 2001                         Establishment of the International Cooperation Department (ICD)

within the Research and Training Institute

-          November 2001                 Relocation of the ICD to the Osaka Nakanoshima National Government Buildig

      -          June 2002                           Dispatch of long-term experts to Laos  

-          July 2002                                          Initiation of country-focused training courses for Indonesia

-          October 2002                       Initiation of country-focused training courses for Uzbekistan

-          February 2006      Dispatch of long-term experts to Cambodia

-          November 2007     Initiation of country-focused training courses for China

-          March 2008                         Initiation of country-focused training courses for East Timor

-      December 2008     Initiation of special training courses for four Central Asian    countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan)

-          July 2010                                          Initiation of country-focused training courses for Nepal


Through establishment and relocation of the ICD, the Research and Training Institute holds a major base for legal technical assistance in Osaka, which has maintained close ties with Asia throughout history.

Part 2. Why is legal technical assistance necessary?

1.     Legal system run by people

The word legal system encompasses a legal system composed of a Constitution as the supreme law and subordinate laws, and an operating system of such laws.

The legal system stipulates basic rules of society, and bears an important role in resolving disputes and maintaining public order by punishing wrongdoers, thereby realizing the rights and obligations of citizens. However, in order for a legal system to actually function, citizens involved in disputes as well as people relevant to the legal system must play their respective roles.

2.     Legal system as common property with other countries
The development of the means of transportation and telecommunication technology in modern society has expedited economic transactions and other international exchanges. In a world where the transfer of people, capital, goods and information takes place in large volume, the legal system of a country affects not only its own country but also other countries and their people. Thus, without a well-established and trustworthy legal system, a country cannot trustfully expect to develop its industries and economy.  

3.      History of the Modernization of the Japanese legal system
Until the middle of the 19th century, the unique legal system of Japan had been heavily influenced by Chinese culture. However, since the Meiji revolution in 1868, and under strong pressure from Western countries, Japan has sought to modernize its legal system inviting legal experts from the West, and sending officers abroad to study Western legal systems. Consequently, the Japanese legal system was modernized in accordance with society and culture.

The legal system should be changed in accordance with changes in society, the economy and culture. Updating legal systems is a continuous process, and developed countries are also making efforts to restructure their individual legal systems. Japan is also in the midst of a restructuring period.

4.     Situation in developing countries

Many developing countries suffer from a lack of modern legal systems. Countries which previously adopted a centrally-controlled economic policy are feeling the need to drastically restructure their entire legal systems as they introduce market economies. As it is a difficult process for many of these countries to lay the foundation for a modern legal system rapidly and properly by themselves (due to scarce human and material resources), international donors and developed countries have been requested to provide legal technical assistance.


5.     Significance of Japanese legal technical assistance

To strengthen its presence in the world, Japan needs to actively contribute to the international community in every aspect. Japan can make use of the following merits in providing legal technical assistance:

-          A legal culture different from that of other developed countries;

-          Over 100-years of experience in studying and introducing the main Western legal systems (of France, Germany, the USA, the UK and others) to structure its own legal system; and

-          A culture which has similarities to those in other Asian countries.


6.     Basic policies of legal technical assistance
Japan adopts the following basic policies for legal technical assistance:

-          Respect for the independence and ownership of recipient countries;

- Provide optional proposals for legal development and leave decision-making to recipient countries;

- Conduct thorough surveys on the situation of recipient countries.

-          Middle- and long-term perspectives;

- Not simply drafting laws:

- Place importance on institutional and personnel capacity-building for systematic enforcement and operation of law.  


Part 3. Activities of the International Cooperation Department

1.      Recent activities
    In response to requests from developing countries in Asia, the Research and Training Institute, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and others, has advanced assistance with a focus on establishing  laws and ensuring their operation, which will serve as a foundation for developing good governance and a market economy in requesting countries. The ICD is making effort to further enhance and develop its assistance activities.

Legal technical assistance comes under the category of intellectual assistance in ODA projects, and is attracting public attention as a form of person-to-person soft power assistance.

Activities of the ICD can be roughly divided into the following five categories:

a.       Training in Japan (country-focused and region-focused courses)

b.       Sending lecturers to local seminars

c.       Assistance in legislative-drafting

d.       Dispatching experts as local advisors

e.       Other activities.

Details of each of the above are stated below.


a.  Training in Japan (country-focused and region-focused courses)

The ICD invites law-making officers, judges, prosecutors, private attorneys and such others to training courses of various programs held in Japan. Training courses held in Japan can be divided into two types: a country-focused course with participants from one particular country, and a region-focused course with participants from several countries.

The curricula of these training courses consist of lectures on the Japanese legal system, presentations by participants on specific themes (country reports), discussions among participants, and visits to judicial institutions. These are designed to encourage participants to i) Deepen their understanding of the fundamental principles of law, the development history of the Japanese legal system, the structure and actual operation of the current Japanese legal system, and the present situation and problems in the legal systems of participants’ countries, etc. and through which to ii) Examine measures to solve such problems.

Training courses are held primarily in the Osaka Nakanoshima National Government Building where the ICD is located, the main office of the Research and Training Institute in Kasumiagaseki, Tokyo, or the JICA Osaka International Centre.


[Country-focused course, and region-focused course]

    While specific issues of a participating country are studied in detail in a country-focused course, the legal systems of all participating countries are studied and compared in a region-focused course.


b.     Sending lecturers to local seminars

The ICD sends its professors as lecturers to seminars held in recipient countries to speak on various types of legislation and their applications.

Seminar themes are chosen from among those which need to be addressed urgently by recipient countries due to such reasons as impending legislation or law amendment. Law-drafting officers from relevant institutions are invited to seminars to attend lectures and discussions for several days.

Local seminars have such merits as:

-          Allowing large groups of individuals to participate; and

-          Lecturers dispatched from Japan can actually see and familiarize themselves with the most recent situation of recipient countries.

c.      Assistance in legislative drafting

The ICD has assisted in drafting the revised Civil Code, Civil Procedure Code of Vietnam, the Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure of Cambodia, and other laws. For each case of legislative assistance, working groups are formed consisting of law professors in Japan, and the ICD assigns its professors to these working groups to plan and make necessary coordination with working group members to hold training courses inviting law draftsmen from recipient countries.

d.     Dispatching experts as local advisors

In cooperation with the Supreme Court, the ICD dispatches two public prosecutors to Vietnam (one was originally a judge), two to Cambodia (one judge), and one prosecutor to Laos, as JICA long-term experts staying for one year or more. Long-term experts are assigned to research the actual legal system, give advice to judicial officers, and to design and plan necessary assistance in the countries to which they have been dispatched. They also coordinate with related organizations to arrange local seminars.

Moreover, the ICD occasionally send its professors to recipient countries from a few weeks to a few months to carry out field surveys on the legal systems of recipient countries. Recently the ICD dispatched its professors to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Nepal and Timor-Leste to conduct various types of surveys.


e.      Other activities

In addition to legal technical assistance, the ICD performs other types of activities, including the organization of international symposiums and legal research.

It has held several symposiums as part of country-focused and region-focused training courses, and also conferences on corporate law, etc., inviting experts from the Asia-Pacific region. On August 28, 2009, a symposium titled, Lets Think Together about Our Legal Technical Assistance International Cooperation in the Legal Field, was held in Tokyo targeting undergraduate and law school students, young legal professionals and scholars, who would be future actors of legal technical assistance. The ICD plans to continue organizing these types of international symposiums regularly.

The Japan-Korea Partnership Program is also administered by the ICD, in which officials of the Ministry of Justice and of the Supreme Court of Japan, and Korean court officials conduct studies and exchange views on practices in relation to registration, deposit, family register and civil execution.

2.       Associated organizations
The ICD keeps close ties with other organizations including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, JICA, and the International Civil and Commercial Law Centre (ICCLC), in  developing its activities. The ICCLC, which is a reliable partner of the ICD, is a foundation established in April 1996 with help from business, academic, and legal circles, for the purpose of legal technical assistance in the civil and commercial law field.
The ICD also receives cooperation from universities in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and other major cities. It is now required to strengthen an all-Japan inclusive assistance mechanism to provide better quality assistance.

Part 4. Future Prospects

Several international organizations including the United Nations and the World Bank, along with developed countries have provided legal technical assistance around the world. Japan needs to promote further efficient and effective assistance in coordination with these donors and other countries.  

As international economic activities continue to intensify, Japan’s role in the international community is becoming even more important. In particular, the needs of Asian nations to modernize their legal systems are constantly increasing, and so are expectations of and requests to Japanese assistance.

 In Japan, the revised “Basic Policies on Legal Technical Assistance” was issued in May 2013 to reflect the renewed policies 
of the Japanese Government on legal technical assistance. These policies emphasize the conventional strategy of strengthening the all Japan support system, through cooperation
between the public and private sectors. In addition, the policies set a new objective of establishing a favorable investment climate for Japanese businesses abroad, with a focus on
IndonesiaVietnamMyanmarMongoliaCambodiaLaosUzbekistan and Bangladesh.