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Model Laws For All

In matters of common interest in the international community, there exists a practice wherein model laws are drafted for sovereign states to use as a blueprint for national legislation.

Environmental model laws also exist, this article seeks to expose the disadvantages of using such instruments in the developing world.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with using a model law as a foundation for drafting national legislation.

However in a time when there is mounting pressure on all nations of the world to enact relevant environmental legislation and formulate sound environmental policies, there may be danger in using model law because such instruments may promote a copy and paste culture.

The inherent danger in this approach is that such a law has no real relevance to the country in question, either ecologically or socio-economically. For instance a model law with provisions on protecting the ocean environment may hold little relevance to landlocked countries. The same may be said for countries where there is a heavy reliance on natural resources for survival.

The law as laid out in model legislation drafted by multilateral institutions based in Europe may not be appropriate here.

The dilemma in rejecting model laws is that most African countries do not have the necessary legislative capacities and financial resources to draft environmental laws and environmental policies. When one considers that this endeavor requires a pool of environmental science experts, and lawyers trained in administrative, environmental, energy and natural resources law. The time and expertise required come at a high cost, considering that there are many other competing national interests in developing economies.

Socio-economic issues such as primary education, primary healthcare, unemployment and poverty undoubtedly take precedence over environmental issues when budgetary allocations are made.

This then leaves many African states in a dilemma as to which path to follow, for the one with less resistance is tantamount to having no law at all.

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