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Law and Development: Applicable Law in Transitional Contexts – is there a role for model criminal legislation?

A challenge for the UN transitional administrators in Kosovo and East Timor was determining the applicable law of each territory, particularly in the area of criminal law. The UN had no theoretical approach to assist in the determination of applicable law nor any practical roadmap for upholding the applicable law in accordance with the UN normative framework. This challenge led to a UN review of peacekeeping operations recommendation that the UN develop model criminal codes for use in UN civil administration peacekeeping missions.

The call to develop model criminal codes builds on a plethora of model codes and legislative guides that have been developed by the multilateral banks, UN agencies and other multilateral and bilateral agencies to assist countries to implement international treaties, conventions and otherwise meet international standards.

This essay has considered the theoretical and practical challenges in the use of Model Codes in the current development context. Ultimately, model legislation is most effective when it is used as one tool to ensure that UN norms and standards are reflected in domestic legislation in a manner that supports local ownership and effectively considers and incorporates local cultural and context.

Author: Matthew Corrigan

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