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MoJ Hosts Dialogue Session to Integrate National Values into the Reform of Legal Framework

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) conducted a two-day thought-provoking dialogue session from April 29th to 30th, 2024, at the Asmara Palace Hotel. The event brought together a diverse range of participants, including representatives from various ministries, UN bodies, diplomats, legal experts, and distinguished guests from within Eritrea and abroad.

The purpose of the session was to address the crucial task of integrating Eritrean values into the country’s legal framework.

Themed “Values and Justice,” the dialogue session aimed to stimulate meaningful discussion and shape a legal framework that reflects the core values cherished by the Eritrean people and government for sustainable development. Minister of Justice, Mrs. Fawzia Hashim, delivered a keynote address, emphasizing the significance of exploring the profound realms of values and justice as the foundation of society. She underscored the need to delve into the essence of these concepts and their intrinsic role in shaping the collective future, particularly in a world where ideologies and perspectives often clash.

The focus of the dialogue session was on Eritrean values, while also considering African, and global experiences. The MoJ aimed to seamlessly incorporate these values into the legal framework as part of its ongoing efforts in legal reform for sustainable development. Minister Fawzia highlighted that Eritrea’s fundamental laws reflect the value systems developed through decades of coexistence, resistance, and the struggle for independence.

In addition to addressing Eritrean values, the dialogue session sought to explore scenarios necessary to adapt to the new political dynamics that the world is currently undergoing. Minister Fawzia acknowledged that traditional approaches to international relations can no longer provide sufficient solutions to the complex challenges faced today. In an interconnected and interdependent world, inclusive development for the benefit of all is the right path forward. Eritrea has consistently advocated for equality, equity, and justice and remains committed to friendly cooperation with other countries based on mutual respect.

Minister Fawzia Hashim

Participants shared experiences from different countries with diverse social systems, ideologies, histories, cultures, and levels of development. The sessions included speeches and presentations on various topics, such as the Eritrean legal framework reform process, the national values underpinning the Eritrean legal reform, African values from the past, present, and future perspectives, and integrating Eritrean values into the legal framework for sustainable development.

The sessions were facilitated by renowned experts in the field, including Prof. Makane M. Makene, Mr. Sium Tekle, Sem Eyasu, Prof. Mohammed Hassan, Prof. PLO Lumumba, Prof. Jean-Marc Thouvenin, Dr. Edgardo Sobenes and Ms. Luwam Mogos.

Professor Makane M. Mbengue delivered a speech highlighting the processes and stages involved in launching the mechanism for dialogue on integrating Eritrean values into the reform of the legal framework for sustainable development.

Prof. Makene began by discussing the key momentum that led to the action plan for the reform of the Eritrean legal framework for sustainable development. He pointed out that the MoJ had drafted a document titled “The Concept of Development,” which not only focused on legal aspects but also addressed the economic implications of the law. This document outlined the values that should guide the legal reform process and identified four main values.

The first value identified was social justice. Prof. Makene stressed the importance of ensuring that the legal system benefits everyone without discrimination or exclusion. He highlighted the problem of laws in many countries that favor certain groups while excluding others, leading to a perception of unfairness and inequity. He cited examples of investment laws in some African countries that primarily benefit foreign investors rather than the local population. Such laws often result in a “race to the bottom” and can have detrimental effects on the environment and people’s livelihoods. Therefore, social justice must be a guiding principle of the legal system administering this sector.

The second value emphasized was self-reliance. Prof. Makene explained that self-reliance is a foundational principle of the state of Eritrea and was a significant value during the country’s struggle for independence. Contrary to the misconception of self-reliance as isolation, it actually means that the people own their resources and take charge of their development without relying solely on external assistance. A legal framework that does not empower the people to shape their own future is inadequate. Development should lead to spillover effects that benefit the entire society, allowing everyone to partake in and own the gains.

The third value or pillar identified was peace and security. Prof. Makene stated that peace and security are fundamental prerequisites for development. In the context of Eritrea, reforming the legal framework for sustainable development involves designing laws that contribute to peace and security in the Horn of Africa (HoA) region and beyond. By incorporating tools and provisions that promote a peaceful environment, such as regulations for the legal exploitation of natural resources, the legal framework can help reduce the risk of conflicts arising from competition over resources. Ensuring peace and security through appropriate legal frameworks is essential for sustainable development.

The fourth core value highlighted was national unity. Prof. Makene emphasized the importance of national cohesion, inclusivity, and equal opportunities in fostering national unity. He pointed out that in many African states, legal frameworks have unintentionally led to national fragmentation instead of unity. Therefore, the legal reform process should aim to bring about national unity by creating a legal framework that ensures inclusivity and equal opportunities for all.

Following the identification of these values, the Ministry of Justice established a task force to develop an action plan for the reform of the legal framework. This task force, composed of experts from the MoJ and academia, worked in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other stakeholders. The action plan was designed to be comprehensive and divided into phases, considering the ambitious nature of the legal framework reform program.

Professor Makane M. Mbengue

The first phase of the action plan focused on assessing seven key areas for the reform of the legal framework: investment, mining, environment and natural resources, water, energy, regulation at sea, and labor. Each area was assigned a clear roadmap that included capacity building, assessment and review, and the design of reform strategies. The subsequent phases would require further assessments, particularly economic assessments, such as the reform of financial laws or instruments. The task force recognized the need to learn from different experiences and conduct thorough economic analyses to develop effective laws.

To ensure that the reform process remained value-oriented, the task force recognized the importance of establishing a mechanism for dialogue on Eritrean values. This mechanism would facilitate discussions among various stakeholders, including national and international experts, to determine which Eritrean values should be integrated into the legal framework and how to integrate them. The mechanism for dialogue was also seen as an opportunity for experience sharing.

The two-day dialogue session marked a significant milestone in the operationalization of the mechanism for dialogue. It successfully generated key takeaways and provided guidelines on how to pragmatically integrate the core values into the reform of the legal framework in the seven identified areas. The session involved in-depth discussions on the meaning and scope of the values in both the Eritrean and African contexts, as well as their integration into the legal reform process.

Mr. Sium and Mr. Siem’s presentation emphasized the significance of national values in shaping Eritrea’s legal framework. National Sovereignty, as a core value, underscores the importance of Eritrea’s independence and the nation’s ability to make sovereign decisions in legal matters. Rule of Law ensures that legal principles and regulations govern the actions of individuals, institutions, and the government, promoting fairness, accountability, and transparency. Self-reliance, a hallmark of Eritrean values, emphasizes the nation’s commitment to economic independence and the development of its resources. Human Dignity has a central place within Eritrean legal principles, ensuring the protection of individuals’ rights and promoting their well-being. Finally, Social Justice, deeply rooted in Eritrean culture, strives to create a just and equitable society for all citizens.

Building upon these underpinning pillars, Prof. PLO Lumumba delivered an extended speech on African values and justice. He emphasized the need for Africa to embrace its cultural heritage and integrate it into legal systems to foster just societies. Prof. Lumumba advocated for a departure from Western-centric models of justice and the promotion of indigenous African approaches. He highlighted the importance of restorative justice and community involvement in resolving disputes and achieving social harmony. Prof. Lumumba’s speech resonated with the audience, igniting discussions on the relevance of African values in shaping legal systems across the continent.

Prof. Mohamed Hassan, a distinguished historian, provided a comparative perspective on the characteristics of the Eritrean revolution. He shed light on the unique dynamics and historical context of the Eritrean struggle for independence, illustrating how the revolution was guided by Eritrean values. The revolution’s emphasis on self-reliance, sacrifice, national unity, social justice, and human dignity played a pivotal role in shaping Eritrea’s legal framework. Prof. Hassan’s comparative analysis sparked insightful conversations on the interplay between revolution, values, and legal reform, and how other African nations could draw lessons from the Eritrean experience.

Other speakers also gave extended speeches on different matters. These speeches were complemented by case studies and personal experiences shared by experts in their respective fields.

Through roundtable discussions, panel discussions, and interactive sessions, participants were immersed engaged in fruitful discussions and exchange of valuable opinions. The insights and opinions shared during the dialogue session were meticulously documented to be used as references and to further enrich the ongoing legal reform process.

The MoJ remains committed to formulating and modernizing the national laws to better serve the people and facilitate the services they require. The guiding principle of the MoJ is to ensure that the laws reflect the values and reality of the Eritrean people, rather than being borrowed or emulated from others. Recognizing the interconnected nature of the world, the Ministry believes that understanding and learning from the values and experiences of other nations are essential in the process of formulating laws that are effective, efficient, and resonate with the people they aim to serve.

The dialogue session was a significant step in the endeavor of integrating Eritrean values into the country’s legal framework. By fostering constructive discussions and drawing on diverse perspectives, the MoJ aims to create a legal system that not only upholds the nation’s core values but also contributes to sustainable development”.

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