Thomas Clark, General Counsel

Thomas Clark
General Counsel
Asian Development Bank

A strong rule of law is both an outcome and enabler to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as ADB’s Strategy 2030 of achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.

ADB’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) has a long-standing commitment to strengthening the rule of law through its Law and Policy Reform (LPR) Program. Since 1995, the LPR Program has helped to create and modernize laws and systems that encourage investment, respect property rights and contracts, reduce inequities and strengthen institutions. Despite its modest size, the LPR Program has been able to demonstrate meaningful impact through well-targeted interventions and building on lessons learned over the years.

The central premise of the LPR Program is that a functioning legal system is essential to inclusive and sustainable development. Such a system is anchored on the rule of law and comprises a comprehensive legal framework and effective judicial, regulatory, and administrative institutions that establish, implement, and enforce laws and regulations fairly, consistently, ethically and predictably.

Under the LPR Program, our lawyers design, process and implement technical assistance projects directly to ADB developing member countries (DMCs) in areas relating to legal and judicial reforms. It covers eight focus areas: (i) Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism; (ii) Digital Economy; (iii) Domestic Resource Mobilization and International Tax Cooperation; (iv) Environmental Protection and Climate Change; (v) Financial Sector Development; (vi) Inclusive Growth and Access to Justice (including Gender Equality); (vii) Private Sector Development; and (viii) Public-Private Partnerships. We also provide implementation support to ADB’s operational departments on various LPR interventions.

The LPR Program is guided by a four-pronged REES benchmark:

  • Is our technical assistance RELEVANT and appropriate to the circumstances of the DMCs? Is it closely connected to the DMCs’ national development plans and ADB’s country partnership strategies?
  • Is our technical assistance EFFECTIVE in assisting DMCs achieve their national objectives and priorities, as well as international commitments? Does it help create a legal system that encourages investment; respects human, contractual, and property rights; and reduces inequities?
  • Is our technical assistance EFFICIENT and well-targeted? Is it designed to maximize impact with the available resources?
  • Is our technical assistance SUSTAINABLE? Does it strengthen legal and judicial institutions and their human capital?

Through targeted interventions that address the specific needs of ADB DMCs, with clear objectives and well-grounded timelines consistent with our DMCs’ development priorities, the LPR Program has made significant strides over the years.

Our LPR Program has led to the development of over thirty laws and policies in Asia and the Pacific, capacity building of more than 2,500 judges and legal professional in various areas of the law and creation of over 100 specialized environmental and gender-based violence courts. These outcomes result from a hybrid approach that is both top-down and bottom-up, cultivation of close relationships with key implementing partners such as ministries of justice, attorney general’s offices and supreme courts and leveraging of strong partnerships with development partners, private sector, legal community, academia and civil society organizations

But, much more needs to be done in the Asia and the Pacific region to make inclusive and sustainable development a reality. As Asia and the Pacific continue to grow and evolve –complementary law and policy reforms will need to address new and complex development challenges such as trade, capital markets, climate change, pandemics, technological changes and inequality. We look forward to continuing to support ADB DMCs through the LPR Program.